Naperville Riverwalk Eatery one step closer to liquor sales
Beer and wine might be coming to a little cafe the Naperville Park District is sprucing up along the Riverwalk.
But some previous Riverwalk and park district leaders oppose the idea, saying the eatery near the paddleboat quarry and the Millennium Carillon is not the right place to be introducing alcohol.
"It just seems to me like this is the last place adjacent to downtown Naperville where we're not serving beer or wine and I don't know why we have to," said Charlie Brown, a former park commissioner. "We have to take a stand and say enough is enough."
Brown and Cliff Preston, former chairman of the Riverwalk Commission, took their stand before the liquor commission last week, but the group recommended approval of the park district's request for a liquor license.
The district wants to sell cans or bottles of beer and single servings of wine at the Riverwalk Eatery, which is getting a new 60-seat outdoor patio and likely a new name, the Riverwalk Cafe.
The district is applying for a cultural facility liquor license that would allow beer and wine sales during cafe hours of 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in warm-weather months. The Class T license only applies to the Naper Settlement's Pre-Emption House, but City Prosecutor Mike DiSanto said it could be expanded to govern liquor sales at the eatery.
"The intention is to add beer and wine only in individual servings only as an amenity to the experience of the eatery," DiSanto said.
Servers would bring the beer or wine to customers and the area would be patrolled by park district police officers to promote safety, said Ray McGury, the park district's executive director, who worked in law enforcement for nearly 30 years.
"In the big scheme of things, this is very reasonable," McGury said. "If I had any reservations about this, I wouldn't be before you."
Police Chief Robert Marshall said the park district's force is well-staffed and the operation should run safely without the need for additional city patrols.
Preston, however, said the eatery's proximity to the paddleboat quarry creates safety concerns and won't help as Naperville tries to keep its downtown night life under control. A fatal crash last summer into the quarry, in which a Geneva man is accused of driving drunk, is still on people's minds, he said.
"We have enough problems downtown and we're trying to correct that," Preston said. "Once you open up the door to something like this, where do you stop?"
Liquor commission members recommended the city council grant the park district's request for a liquor license, but impose a sunset date in six months or a year to trigger another review.
The city council will address the liquor license request within a couple of months, DiSanto said.
With or without a license, the park district plans to complete a $400,000 renovation to the eatery at 441 Aurora Ave. and serve a new menu with wraps, flat bread pizzas, paninis, desserts and dips with crackers and vegetables.
"Either way," McGury said, "we'll be open by Memorial Day with a nice new patio,"