Naperville panel OKs lifting 2 liquor service limits

Two types of liquor license holders in Naperville say they're up against limits on how many ounces of drinks they can sell to each customer in a visit, and they'd like to see those limits loosened.

Members of the city's liquor commission, after listening to ways the business has changed for Tasting deVine Cellars and Solemn Oath Brewery, said they're amenable to allowing higher volumes of sales.

The final decision will rest with the city council, which will consider the topic during a future meeting.

But if early opinions hold, Tasting deVine soon will be able to sell up to 18 ounces of wine to each customer 21 or older, and Solemn Oath Brewery - along with other holders of the class P brewery license - will be able to sell beverages they produce, on-site or elsewhere, without an ounce limit per customer.

These changes would grant requests operators say would allow them to grow their businesses.

"We're the only ones who manufacture our product. We are not a bar; we are not a restaurant. We should be looked at differently," Solemn Oath founder John Barley said. "It's our entire business."

When Solemn Oath opened in 2012, Barley said it was the third licensed tap room in Illinois among a craft beer industry with 2,500 breweries nationwide.

Now, he said the nation boasts 6,400 breweries, and out of about 160 in Illinois, only four are regulated by an ounce limit: Solemn Oath and 2 Fools Cider in Naperville, as well as Alter Brewing Company in Downers Grove and Mikerphone Brewing in Elk Grove Village.

Barley called the 48-ounce limit "the No. 1 challenge" in attracting corporate events or weddings that would like to use the brewery as a venue, but don't want their guests to be limited on drinks.

"It's clearly a restrictive exception that is no longer needed," liquor commission member Pam Davis said.

Along with asking for the limit to be removed, Barley also sought and received preliminary approval for removal of language in the code that allows establishments only to sell beer produced on site and an expansion of the marketing-event permits available each year from two to 12.

Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico cautioned that although the liquor commission unanimously approved all three requests, the city council could split them and approve some but not others.

Unanimous approval greeted Tasting deVine as well, as General Manger and Sommelier Gregory Hayes sought the ability to serve another glass of wine to customers who desire it.

Hayes said the business used to have more of a retail focus, selling wine sets as gifts, but that market has dried up as people seek experiences instead of items.

"We've had to, over the years, morph into more of a wine bar," Hayes said. "And we're struggling to survive with what we're allowed to pour."

In six-ounce increments, the business offers tastings, flights or full glasses of wine, all produced by Lynfred Winery in Roselle. Customers now can choose two options, such as a flight and a glass, before hitting their 12-ounce daily maximum, Hayes said.

Liquor commission member Scott Wehrli said the 12-ounce limit was imposed when Tasting deVine Cellars was new, operating an unfamiliar concept as a remote seller of wines produced by only one vendor, Lynfred.

"We were trying to avoid the idea of bars and taverns in the downtown," Wehrli said.

If the council lifts the limit to 18 ounces, it would apply only to holders of the class S specialty license that sell a single brand of products. Specialty stores that sell from multiple brands or manufacturers would remain regulated by the 12-ounce limit.

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Tasting deVine Cellars in downtown Naperville soon could be able to sell up to 18 ounces of wine to each customer during a visit, up from 12, if the city council approves a unanimous preliminary recommendation made by the liquor commission. Daily Herald file photo April 2015
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