Will new Naperville grocery store get OK to sell liquor?

 
 
Updated 6/18/2015 9:49 PM

The Naperville City Council seems willing to tweak the liquor code to allow a future specialty grocery store to sell beer and wine.

Council members said they're likely to change which types of stores are prohibited from selling alcohol near schools to allow a new farmers market-style grocer to gain a liquor license.

 

Fresh Thyme plans to open in October in the Cress Creek Square shopping center at 790 Royal St. George Drive, close to a KinderCare.

The store wants to sell beer and wine, estimating those sales will amount to between 3 and 5 percent of its total revenue, said Kavita Athanikar, city prosecutor.

But the location of the KinderCare prevents Fresh Thyme from getting a liquor license; city code says alcohol sellers cannot be within 100 feet of a school or day care.

Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico said the code needs adjustments, especially because some day cares have chosen to open where liquor stores already were located.

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That's the case with the KinderCare at Cress Creek, where a Binny's Beverage Depot has been operating for 30 years.

"This is something we have to clean up one way or another," Chirico said. "I would like to see the Fresh Thyme. I think it's a good concept and a safe and responsible operator."

Athanikar said state law exempts some types of stores that sell liquor from the rule regulating distance from schools, including hotels and food shops where sale of alcohol isn't the primary business.

Naperville's code, however, doesn't include an exemption for food stores.

But council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski proposed adding it.

She said that's a better idea than an earlier proposal to remove the words "day care" from the definition of a school in the liquor code.

"If our interest is to allow Fresh Thyme the opportunity to come into the Cress Creek plaza, we could do that ... without necessarily changing our definition of 'school,'" Boyd-Obarski said. "It seems to me that what we are protecting when we have a limit on how closely you can sell alcohol to a school would, in my heart, be equally applicable to a day care or a preschool."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Chirico said having businesses near schools that sell alcohol to be drank at home is less concerning than having restaurants or bars nearby where people drink on-site.

"You can walk out of there being intoxicated and it's a more dangerous situation," he said.

Council member Kevin Gallaher said use of retail spaces is changing as more goods are sold online. But he said that doesn't mean traditional retailers should be prohibited from opening in strip malls just because nontraditional uses are nearby.

"I don't think you change the character of what a retail outlet is supposed to be just because a church or day care has decided to locate," Gallaher said.

The council didn't take final action on the change to exempt food sellers from the distance requirement, but the topic is scheduled for a vote during the next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 21.

Two other tweaks to the liquor code gained final approval this week.

The first increases the number of permits to sell alcohol after 11 p.m. outside the downtown area. That allows three restaurants Pepe's Mexican Restaurant, Draft Picks and Uncle Julio's, and a movie theater, Star Cinema Grill, to sell drinks until 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

The second change decreases the square footage required to hold a grocery store liquor license. That allows the Aldi at 1440 Naperville/Wheaton Road to begin selling beer and wine.

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