Naperville debates changes to Sunday liquor laws
Two proposals to loosen liquor laws in Naperville seem simple enough on the surface:
Allow Sunday alcohol sales to begin at 7 a.m. for all types of liquor license holders and let packaged liquor sellers display alcohol anywhere throughout their stores instead of only in a separate section.
But some city council members Tuesday said they're concerned about the negative impact the proposals could have on Naperville's efforts to discourage young people from drinking.
"We talk a lot about fighting substance use. It seems like up here we do just the opposite with regard to alcohol," council member Kevin Coyne said. "We seem to take steps toward expanding alcohol use in a variety of different contexts instead of trying to curtail it back in."
Council members took no action Tuesday during their first discussion of the proposed rule changes, mainly because they want to hear from substance use prevention experts first.
Under the first proposal, Sunday liquor sales would be adjusted to begin at 7 a.m. for all liquor license holders and to eliminate the requirement that some sellers must serve a full meal to each customer who orders an alcoholic drink during certain hours.
A kitchen still would need to be staffed and operational and some sort of food service would need to be available. But a customer theoretically could come into a restaurant or bar as early as 7 a.m. Sunday and be served only a beer or a Bloody Mary, without any food.
Whether to begin Sunday alcohol sales earlier than 8, 9 or 10 a.m. or noon as allowed under various liquor licenses should be decided based on community norms rather than business considerations for beverage sellers, council member Rebecca Boyd-Obarski said.
"I'm not comfortable with the idea that we would have taverns serving alcohol without serving food that early in the day," she said. "It just doesn't ring comfortable with me or consistent with what I feel our community values are."
Mayor Steve Chirico said the proposed rule change is designed to simplify Sunday liquor sales, bring regulations in line with the rest of the week and adjust to cultural practices that have changed greatly since the days when Sundays were reserved for church.
Now, he said, hotels are one example of a business affected by the city's later Sunday alcohol hours as they sometimes can't serve hard drinks during post-wedding brunches.
"We're just not current. We need to modernize it, in my view," Chirico said. "I don't think it says anything to our character that we are, as adults, being able to have a celebration drink in a reasonable way."
Beth Sack, manager of addiction services for Linden Oaks Behavioral Health in Naperville, said moving up Sunday liquor sales likely would not detract from youth substance prevention efforts, especially if the change was made rather quietly without lots of advertising promoting "7 a.m. liquor sales!"
"I don't know if that would make a huge difference for prevention," Sack said. "And I wonder how much it would even be known."
But Boyd-Obarski said prevention efforts often are hurt by display and advertising of potentially harmful products.
The proposed display change could allow packaged liquor stores, shops with beer and wine sales licenses, grocery stores, specialty stores and pharmacies to place alcohol outside confined areas.
Since 2012, the city has allowed such displays only on four holidays a year for cross-marketing purposes, according to a memo from Kavita Athanikar, city prosecutor. But the rest of the year, alcohol must be kept in a separate section.
Store representatives from Standard Market and Jewel told city council members they seek greater freedom to show alcohol near foods with which it pairs well, such as cheese or dinner entrees, but they would be careful not to place it near items that appeal to kids, such as toys or after-school snacks.
Still, the potential of seeing alcohol more prevalently shown throughout a grocery store could have a negative effect on preventing underage drinking, Sack said.
"Having it all over the store, I think, could have some impact on the norms of how we use alcohol," Sack said. "I would think that could have a little more of an effect on the younger population. That could draw them more to thinking, 'Maybe I want to try that,' or 'That looks kind of good.'"
The liquor topics are expected be up for discussion again during the council's next meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, in the municipal center, 400 S. Eagle St.