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updated: 1/28/2014 2:41 PM

Wheaton may allow alcohol sales at convenience stores

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Shoppers soon may be able to buy alcohol while picking up essentials at convenience stores in Wheaton.

During a planning session Monday, the city council was asked to consider an amendment to the liquor code that would allow convenience stores to sell liquor.

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In October and again in December, Bucky's Express requested the creation of a new license classification that would allow for the sale of beer and wine at its proposed location at 1000 Roosevelt Road.

City Manager Don Rose said the store and a new gas station will be built after the Mobil station now at the location is demolished. Bucky's also will take up a portion of the former Suburban Buick site, he said.

Earlier this month, 7-Eleven sent the city a similar request asking for a license to allow the sale of a limited assortment of beer, wine and liquor at its two Wheaton locations.

Wheaton's liquor code, which was introduced in 1985, has never contained a license classification to allow convenience stores to sell alcohol.

Class D licenses originally were created for drugstores no smaller than 5,000 square feet. In 2010, the classification was amended to allow stores no smaller than 10,000 square feet to sell beer and wine, which affected Walgreens and CVS. In 2012, those stores were allowed to sell liquor, too.

There are at least five convenience stores in Wheaton that range from 2,000 square feet to more than 6,800 square feet, according to city staff. They include the proposed Bucky's, 7-Elevens at 326 W. Liberty Drive and 1277 E. Butterfield Road, DuPage Pantry Plus at 238 N. Gables Blvd. and Circle K at 204 E. Geneva Road.

Additional convenience stores ranging from less than 500 square feet to 1,200 square feet also exist throughout the city, according to city staff.

The city council will need to decide if every convenience store should have the ability to seek a license, or if only stores with a minimum square footage will be allowed to sell alcohol.

There was talk of possibly limiting the alcohol sales area in convenience stores to a certain percentage of the total square footage of the store and requiring the use of extra safety measures, such as alcohol cases that lock after liquor sale hours and point of sale equipment that would scan IDs.

Hours of liquor sales also would have to be determined. Currently, class D license holders can sell alcohol from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

"The minimum store size, I still think that that's kind of arbitrary," Councilman Todd Scalzo said. "I think the much more appropriate, or better tailored, restriction is the percentage of sales floor."

Councilwoman Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti said she would be open to letting convenience stores sell beer, wine and hard liquor, with certain restrictions.

"I'd be in favor of creating a new classification, particularly in light of recent decisions that we've made with Walgreens, CVS and the sale times and dates of alcohol at restaurants," she said.

Councilman Thor Saline and Councilman John Prendiville were in favor of letting convenience stores sell alcohol, but said they would need to think more about letting them offer hard liquor.

"If they find a market for beer and wine, we should make that available to them," Saline said.

City staff plans to draft an amendment that includes some of the restrictions city council members suggested and present it at a future meeting.

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