Saying access to alcohol shouldn't be too convenient, St. Charles aldermen spiked a concept this week that would've brought a drive-through grocery store to the city. Now the rejection might push the entrepreneur behind the deal to pull his existing business from the city as well.
Peter Bogle modeled the drive-through on similar concepts he saw while living on the East Coast. The business would work by vehicles driving up into a space similar to a dock where vehicles get oil changes. Once inside, the driver places an order for various grocery items. Workers get the products from the shelves and deliver them to the driver, who never leaves the car. Bogle planned to convert the former Quick Lube at the southeast corner of Randall Road and Route 38 into the drive-through grocery store.
"The key take-away is this is not replacing the weekly or every two weeks run to the grocery store," Bogle told aldermen. "This is going to be more of a convenience theme."
But the key take-away from the majority of aldermen who rejected the plan is Bogle's request to sell beer and wine.
Alderman Maureen Lewis said there are no locations in Kane County where someone can stay in his or her car and purchase alcohol. St. Charles doesn't even allow beer sales at local gas stations. City officials have also struggled in recent years to curb rowdy behavior associated with alcohol sales at downtown taverns.
"I don't think it would be prudent to give a (liquor) license to someone who has never held one," Lewis said. "And I don't think liquor needs to be made convenient."
Bogle said he doesn't expect the business would be profitable enough to survive without some alcohol sales. In an interview, Bogle said he might take one more shot at winning aldermen over. His idea is to ask for permission to sell only beer or only wine as the alcohol portion of the business. Then, if no problems arise, he would seek permission for both beer and wine sales. There is no plan to sell hard liquor.
"They kept calling it a liquor store," Bogle said. "It's not a liquor store; it's a grocery. It's not a full-blown grocery store. But the reality is you can't survive on a 10 percent margin from selling milk and frozen pizzas."
The drive-through grocery isn't Bogle's only brainchild. He is the creator of O-Liminator, an odor-killing product he built an existing St. Charles business around. Bogle said the future presence of that business in St. Charles might be tied to the fate of the grocery store.
"This idea is about bringing business to St. Charles," Bogle said. "If the city council has no concern about growing St. Charles, then I don't know if I want to have my business in St. Charles, especially if that's the group that's leading the charge. I would absolutely go to another community. If the Napervilles of the world are willing to embrace this plan, then that's the path of least resistance."
Bogle has at least one ally who will try to keep him in St. Charles. Mayor Ray Rogina was a vocal supporter of Bogle's drive-through during both a liquor license commission meeting and the subsequent review by aldermen. He encouraged aldermen to be creative and open-minded when it comes to ideas that will grow the city's business community.
"We know we have an inactive building in an area where a large grocery store is now shuttered," Rogina told aldermen.
"I don't know that we can always be sitting around waiting to pick and choose when we have an entrepreneur waiting here."