Naperville considers new regulations on self-service beer, wine taps

A trend toward restaurants allowing people to pour their own drinks through self-service taps is changing the way diners get their alcohol.

Now Naperville is looking to change the way the city regulates it.

The city council is likely to create a new liquor permit that sets rules for businesses that offer automatic self-service taps for beer or wine. In Naperville, these include Sixty Four - A Wine Bar, which opened a year ago in the Water Street District downtown, and Red Arrow Tap Room, which plans a late summer opening at 216 S. Washington St., also downtown.

The new regulation would set serving size restrictions, require oversight of customer-operated dispensing devices by one trained employee for every 35 adult guests, and require video monitoring of the dispensing devices.

Only businesses with Class B, restaurant and tavern, or Class J, hotel, motel and tavern, liquor licenses would be able to apply for the dispenser permit, which would cost $500 a year and allow the dispensing of up to 24 ounces of beer or up to six ounces of wine at a time. A full kitchen menu would be required until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday to accompany the self-serve beverages.

The city would cap the number of dispenser permits at two for the downtown and four for elsewhere in the city.

While developing the new rules, Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico ran the proposal past owners of both Sixty Four and Red Arrow. Both said they appreciated the collaborative process and are ready to comply with the proposed regulations, including the video recording element.

But city council members John Krummen and Rebecca Boyd-Obarski said they object to the city requiring such monitoring, with Boyd-Obarski saying she fears the rule could bring unintended consequences and Krummen doubting its necessity.

With an employee required to monitor the self-service taps, Krummen said the practice is already as controlled as typical beverage service. "How is that different than if a server brought you your drink?" Krummen said. "Why the extra scrutiny?"

Chirico said liquor commission members decided the freedom diners have to serve their own drinks should come with a "higher level of security." He also said the city initially wanted a much lower ratio of trained employees to self-serving guests, but adjusted the number to make it more financially feasible for operators such as Loren Beadle of Sixty Four and Joe Tota of Red Arrow.

"That's also one of the reasons the video monitoring came into play," Chirico said, "to take into consideration their business models."

Beadle and Tota said they already record in their restaurants, with or without the potential city requirement.

"I don't see it as a problem," Tota said. "It's a good best practice."

Beadle said he employs specialists called "wine leads" to keep watch for underage drinkers or overserved patrons.

"We say self-serve. That doesn't mean we're not managing that area," he said. "To us, that's really important."

The council made no changes to the proposed dispenser permit and did not take a vote. A vote is scheduled for its next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 17, in the municipal center at 400 S. Eagle St.

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