Tasting room could be coming to Binny's in Naperville
New Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico called the liquor commission one of the most important advisory boards in city government as he led his first meeting of the panel, and the group's agenda quickly proved him right.
The commission addressed three requests that could allow Binny's Beverage Depot to create a new tasting room, permit Aldi to sell beer and wine and let a new market-style grocer get a liquor license despite being near a day care center.
"I take my role as liquor commissioner seriously," Chirico said. "I intend to be open-minded and consistent."
The four-member commission, including returning members Dr. James Ostrenga and Scott Wehrli and new commissioners U-Jung Choe and Marc Blackman, recommended all three of its first items be sent to the city council for final approval.
As part of a $1 million expansion that will more than double the size of the Naperville Binny's Beverage Depot at 790 Royal St. George Drive to 30,000 square feet, the store wants to add a small classroom for sampling drinks.
CEO Michael Binstein said it's all about acoustics and providing a more comfortable environment for customers to learn about wines, craft beers and other specialty alcohols.
"The acoustics aren't good for education," he said about the store, with customers pushing carts and cashiers ringing up orders. "If we were just selling Budweiser and Smirnoff vodka, we wouldn't need an education center."
The store conducts tastings now at tables set up among the aisles, but a proposed amendment to the Class D packaged liquor store license would allow for seated tastings. The liquor commission unanimously recommended the license be adjusted, and the idea will be discussed at a city council meeting.
"Having been in the wine business, I know those types of tastings are important to build business and education and people enjoy them," Blackman said.
Alcohol at Aldi
Aldi grocery stores typically sell beer and wine, but not at 1440 Naperville/Wheaton Road in Naperville.
"We have people come in every day asking for wine and beer and we have to explain that we don't have a liquor license in Naperville," said Scott Patton, vice president of Aldi's Batavia division. "Really, all of our competition in the market has the ability to sell these products. It's a little bit of a disadvantage to us to say we're a grocery store but we can't sell our full assortment."
The store, which is roughly 15,000 square feet, doesn't qualify for Naperville's Class G packaged beer and wine license because it's too small. City Prosecutor Kavita Athanikar said a size requirement was added to prevent small liquor stores from popping up in neighborhoods and instead confine them to shopping centers of at least 45,000 square feet.
Commissioners unanimously recommended dropping the size requirement to 15,000 square feet to allow Aldi to gain a license that would cost $4,500 a year.
Patton said Aldi's beer and wine display would be near the checkout but away from the front door to reduce concerns about sales to minors.
A specialty farmers market-type grocery store is planning to open in the Cress Creek shopping center on Royal St. George Drive, and Fresh Thyme wants a liquor license to sell beer and wine.
Problem is, the new store would be located in the same shopping area as a KinderCare, and city code prohibits the sale of alcohol within 1,000 feet of a day care or school.
The commission recommended to the city council that the words "day care" be removed to allow the market to apply for a license. But one had some concerns and voted against the move.
"I feel hesitant about eliminating the words 'day care' from the language itself," Choe said. "I believe the purpose is to protect the school, whether it's a school or a day care. I'm not sure if that's significant."
Athanikar said state law already allows liquor to be sold near day care centers, and Fresh Thyme officials who reached out to KinderCare about their plans heard no opposition. The KinderCare also is in the same shopping center as Binny's, so the future Fresh Thyme wouldn't be the first place near this day care to be selling booze.
"In this shopping center, where was a full liquor store before KinderCare moved to its current location," Deputy City Clerk Nancy Bright said. "I would think if they had an objection, they wouldn't have located their school there."