Naperville restricts bar entry, shot sales, beer sizes

Liquor license holders throughout Naperville will face additional restrictions on late-night entry, shot sales and beer sizes after the city council adopted new regulations developed this summer after a fatal crash and a fight on Washington Street.

In a complex series of votes Tuesday, the council approved the following:

• Bars and restaurants with liquor licenses citywide will not be able to admit new patrons or let people re-enter beginning one hour before closing time. Closing remains at 2 a.m. on weekends and 1 a.m. on weekdays with a late-night permit. Hotels with Class J liquor licenses will be exempt, so customers can enter and re-enter until closing time.

• The maximum serving size for craft beer, as defined in the municipal code, will be 24 ounces, while the maximum serving size for non-craft beer will be reduced to 22 ounces. Craft beer is described by a three-part definition: It must come from a craft brewery that produces less than 2 million barrels of beer each year; the brewery must be less than 25 percent owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not a craft brewer; and the brewery must produce a significant volume of malt beers or beers that use adjuncts to enhance flavors rather than to lighten them.

"There are a few establishments that if they just stopped selling the inexpensive big beers, we wouldn't be having this issue," council member Judith Brodhead said. "So now we will codify it."

• Shots cannot be served beginning one hour prior to closing time at bars and restaurants with liquor licenses citywide. There must be no "last call" for shots. And no one is allowed to encourage customers to order shots, as bars sometimes do by allowing an employee or drink promoter to walk around with a tray of shots to sell. The council declined to limit the size of shots to 2 ounces.

"Regarding shots, to me the point isn't trying to figure out exactly how big it is, but the heart of it is prohibiting the service of shots one hour before closing time," council member Joseph McElroy said. "I think that's a good idea. It will really address some of the worst parts of the abuse."

These new regulations are on top of two others approved last month that require city-sponsored alcoholic beverage server training for bar security personnel and prohibit establishments with liquor licenses from offering specials that decrease the price of a drink to less than half its regular cost.

Procedurally, approval of the new regulations Tuesday became complex because few council members agreed on all elements of the regulations. Council member Robert Fieseler abstained from at least four votes because "this whole process has become so flawed and convoluted and internally inconsistent."

Drinking regulations originally were proposed by the city's liquor commission in August to curb problems with what some describe as overservice and others call overconsumption of alcohol.

"The issue is overconsumption," police Chief Robert Marshall said. "The more alcohol you give them, the more alcohol they're going to drink and that leads to the problems we're seeing."

Points of division included whether regulations should apply citywide or only downtown and whether hotels should be forced to forbid entry or re-entry one hour before closing time. Some on the council also opposed any further regulation on the maximum serving size of beer.

Council members have begun tracking crime statistics for the downtown as a way to measure whether liquor law changes are keeping people safer. The council will receive quarterly updates on violations for DUI, public urination, battery or fighting, resisting arrest or interfering with police officers, disorderly conduct, criminal damage to property and breaking liquor code regulations.

If the regulations put into place so far don't bring positive change, the council could move to the solution Naperville resident Roger McDonald pushed for Tuesday: reducing bar hours.

"If this doesn't work," McElroy said, "I'll be back to saying close the bars early."

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