Panel suggests 6 ways to change Naperville bar scene

Liquor commission members in Naperville spent nearly two hours Thursday weighing more than a dozen ideas to help prevent the downtown from being overrun with drunks, fights and dangerous drivers.

In a preview of a discussion the city council will begin Tuesday, liquor commissioners came up with six recommendations to calm the late-night environment after a suspected drunken driving crash claimed two lives and a fight broke out on Washington Street during one weekend in July.

Recommendations include:

• Stopping the sale of shots one hour before closing time without announcing a “last call for shots” or employing anyone to walk around a bar selling shots from trays within a crowd.

• Reducing serving sizes for beer to 20 ounces and for shots to 2 ounces.

• Requiring standardized training for security personnel and bar managers.

• Increasing the fee for a late-night permit, which allows a bar to stay open past 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends, to $1,000 from $200.

• Forbidding new patrons from entering bars one hour before closing time.

• Prohibiting specials that cut a drink's cost to less than half of its regular menu price.

Mayor George Pradel, who also is Naperville's liquor commissioner, said the city council should consider these measures as ways to prevent downtown Naperville from being seen as the place to go to get drunk and unruly.

“What our council is concerned with is the climate of our downtown,” Pradel said.

Liquor commission member Scott Wehrli also suggested the commission review how these measures are working to prevent disturbances downtown every 90 days. If police statistics on arrests for fighting and battery do not show improvement, the liquor commission and city council then could consider moving closing time forward one hour to 1 a.m. on weekends.

“I think we're fooling ourselves in thinking that we're going to change the culture of downtown Naperville with one hour or two hours a week,” Wehrli said. “I think there's a lot of ways we have to attack this.”

Downtown bar owners said they support some of these changes, such as stopping the sale of shots one hour before closing time — an idea that came to the liquor commission from bar owners themselves. But moving closing time forward strikes Wise Boxer Pour House owner Jim Bergeron as counterintuitive, he said.

“You want to create more problems, close us an hour early,” Bergeron said.

Naperville police Detective Mark English said most downtown night life problems stem from visitors being overserved from a combination of drinks at the bars and other alcohol they consumed before stopping in an establishment. Restrictions on shots and beverage sizes could help address the issue, he said.

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  Mike DiSanto, Naperville city prosecutor, takes a straw poll of liquor commission members on proposed recommendations to the city council to help calm the late night bar scene in the city's downtown. Marie Wilson/
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