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Tavern license moratorium advances

  • Patrons meander out of Mother Hubbards on 5 W. Hubbard St. on a late Thursday night falling into Friday morning after last call around 4 a.m.ish in Chicago.
Patrons meander out of Mother Hubbards on 5 W. Hubbard St. on a late Thursday… (Barry Brecheisen/RedEye )
August 28, 2013|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

The proposal to place a moratorium on additional tavern licenses for a popular section of River North advanced on Wednesday.

The ordinance, which was put forth by Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), calls for no more tavern licenses to be issued in an area bordered by Illinois Street to the north, the Chicago River to the south, State Street to the east and Wells Street to the west. A stretch of Franklin Street from Huron Street to Ontario Street is also listed among the proposed moratorium zone.

Reilly said his ward is dense and has a high concentration of liquor licenses. For example, he said, the Hubbard and Kinzie street corridors from State Street to Wells Street have 140 liquor licenses: 18 tavern licenses, 13 late-hour licenses, 10 packaged goods licenses, 16 outdoor patios and 83 incidental activity licenses (for consumption on premises at businesses where sale of alcohol is secondary).

"As you can imagine, when you have a high concentration of liquor in a very confined space, that can create all sorts of quality-of-life concerns and frankly pose an undue burden for local police," Reilly said at the City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection meeting. The committee advanced the ordinance.

The alderman said he is not seeking to limit the number of incidental licenses that restaurants that serve alcohol are granted. But rather, he said, he is attempting to codify his practice of routinely opposing tavern applications in the area. Taverns can pose a drain on police resources when officers have to serve as bouncers by removing overly intoxicated patrons from premises, he said.

The Hospitality Business Association of Chicago, which represents 200 locally owned bars and restaurants in the city, didn't support the moratorium, citing concerns on how it would impact existing businesses.

"Overall with this ordinance, the existing licensees will have a harder time transferring it [to new ownership or investors]," association managing director Patrick Doerr said.

The city has the option to lift the moratorium to make such changes, Reilly said.

The proposed ordinance goes to the full City Council for approval Sept. 11.

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