Naperville aims for bar rules 'fair to everyone'

Naperville City Council members trying to make downtown night life safer are hearing concerns that potential liquor regulations may be overbearing on bars outside the central business district.

Operators of two restaurants outside downtown - Morton's The Steakhouse at 1751 Freedom Drive and Pepe's Mexican Restaurant at 1270 Chicago Ave. - spoke Tuesday as the council reviewed changes that could restrict shot sales, beverage sizes, security training, drink specials and hours people can enter bars.

The proposals developed after two young men died in what police say was an alcohol-related crash near downtown and after a fight broke out on Washington Street during a July weekend.

"It seems like downtown Naperville is the problem. Why am I being penalized?" said Spencer Javorek, owner of the Pepe's on Chicago Avenue. "I'm not violating. I am following the rules. I am using the best practices and I'm following the law. And because of the density of bars and restaurants in the downtown area, which probably rivals Rush Street and Division, I have to suffer the penalty."

Javorek and George Mendonca, general manager of Morton's on Freedom Drive, both asked how they would be affected by a regulation that would prevent people from entering bars within an hour of closing.

Mike DiSanto, city prosecutor, said the rule only would go into effect 60 minutes before bars are required to close, which for holders of late-night permits is 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Restaurants that voluntarily close earlier would not be affected, he said.

Proposed regulations also would limit the maximum serving size of beer to 20 ounces instead of 24, limit the maximum size of shots to 2 ounces instead of 3, and set 5 ounces as the maximum serving size for wine.

"The 5-ounce pour on wine? We've always had 6 ounces, never had a problem in our life," Mendonca said.

Council member Grant Wehrli suggested the proposal be amended to allow wine servings of 6 ounces, but the council left the rest of the regulations unchanged, saying an across-the-board approach is better than treating downtown and non-downtown bars differently.

"It might be an inconvenience to some people, but it has to be fair to everyone concerned," Mayor and Liquor Commissioner George Pradel said. "We have to do what's best for the majority and it all has to be fair."

Council members could approve the new liquor regulations at a meeting Sept. 16.

"We really think this is something we need to do to keep our brand, if you want to call it that, and improve the safety of our downtown," council member Judith Brodhead said.

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