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Community meeting over proposed West Town taproom draws hundreds

Forbidden Root brewery faces battle to change zoning, liquor moratorium

(Bill Hogan / Chicago Tribune )
January 24, 2014|By Kate Bernot, @redeyeeatdrink | RedEye

UPDATE, May 6, 2014: Founder Robert Finkel said the East Village Assocation voted on May 5 to support lifting a two-block liquor moratorium that would have prevented Forbidden Root from opening its taproom at 1746 W. Chicago Ave. He said the brewery already has received zoning approval and the stated support of Ald. Moreno. Moreno is expected to introduce legislation to lift the liquor moratorium during an upcoming City Council meeting. 


A community meeting to a discuss proposed taproom in West Town drew an estimated 325 people to a historic building on Chicago Avenue on January 23.

With all of the chairs filled, people stood along the walls as partners in Forbidden Root brewery made the case for a taproom in the former theater at 1746 W. Chicago Avenue.

Forbidden Root, which calls itself the first botanical brewery in the country, would have to overcome major hurdles to set up shop on that stretch of Chicago Avenue. The brewery and taproom, which would not have a restaurant component, would have to overturn a liquor license moratorium in the area and/or would have to successfully change the building's zoning from a B-class to a C-class status to allow for beer production.

While the crowd--which included nearby residents, other brewers and local business owners--generally applauded most statements by Forbidden Root partners Robert Finkel, Randy Mosher and head of operations B.J. Pichman, the fate of the project largely is in the hands of City Council.

"We want independent, contemporary businesses in this area with a lot of community support," said Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), whose ward includes the proposed site, but who did not attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict. "On paper, this is a really good proposal."

Though Moreno is "glad this conversation is happening" in regards to the proposed taproom, he stops short of saying that he would lift the liquor moratorium in that area.

"My argument to the liquor commissioner is that this [taproom] is a newer thing. We need to recognize that our licensing has to be keeping up," Moreno said.

Proposals floated by the Forbidden Root partners and Moreno include introducing an incidental liquor license for the taproom (arguing that liquor sales on premise would be incidental to production) or introducing a plan of operation (basically a liquor license that is contingent upon a set of in-writing, agreed-upon rules) for the business.

According to Forbidden Root, the earliest movement on the project could come as soon as early February if Ald. Moreno introduces measures to City Council. In the meantime, the brewery urges residents to make their opinions heard to the alderman and other community organizations.

kbernot@tribune.com  @redeyeeatdrink

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