Mayor George Pradel begged the council to "hold off" and Police Chief Robert Marshall says the move will require the city to hire more police, but Naperville officials Tuesday night increased their late-night liquor permits by one.
Council members voted 8 to 1, with Pradel voting no, to expand the capped permits to allow for Ballydoyle to open its new Empire craft beer and burger pub at the corner of Chicago Avenue and Main Street in the old Rosebud site.
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The move will allow owner Phil Cullen, when the establishment opens this December, to serve alcohol after 11 p.m., and provide live music from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Cullen's proposal was the city's first opportunity to consider increasing the number of late-night permits held by downtown establishments.
The current ordinance, enacted in 2012, created 18 downtown permits enabling restaurants with Class B licenses to continue serving drinks from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday, and until 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The site is said to need significant structural upgrades and renovation after the 2010 fire and developers have shied away from the property.
Council members, many familiar with Cullen's ventures in Downers Grove, Aurora and Bloomingdale, said if anyone could make it work, they believe it will be Cullen.
"We have one establishment with a challenging property and a developer still willing to step up to the plate," said Councilman Doug Krause.
"It's always been a restaurant. What did you think is going to go in there? (Cullen's) a classy operator and we need to take advantage of people like this who are stepping up to the plate to work with difficult, empty properties."
Councilwoman Judith Brodhead agreed, saying she "can't see a great deal wrong with" the proposal.
Councilman Joe McElroy said it's al about location.
"To me the location is really important.
"This piece is a very difficult piece. I haven't heard people lining up to go into that space," he said. "If it falls into the river, were going to have a real problem."
Pradel, who also serves as the city's liquor commissioner, pleaded with the council to wait before increasing the permit cap, saying he believes the city is just now gaining momentum in the downtown and is worried another late-night establishment will put more pressure on an already lean police department.
"We're making progress with the cooperation of the police and business owners and we're starting to manifest a feeling that we're all working together," Pradel said. "I'd ask that you hold off awhile, I'd hope you would think about all of the other concerns adding this permit could raise."
Marshall said the addition will require at least one new police officer on a downtown beat but also accepted the challenge to have a plan in place by December.
He acknowledged it's not an easy challenge, as it takes between eight to 10 months to hire an officer and get them through all of the initial training.
Now that the cap has been increased, Cullen will meet with the liquor commission where Pradel said specific terms of the permit will be ironed out.
Specifically, he and some other council members have reservations about Cullen's business practice to allow minors in after 9 p.m. with supervising adults or parents.
"I've taken those concerns down and we'll talk about them during the process," Pradel said.