Grocers gaining liquor display freedom in Naperville

  • Grocery stores in Naperville, such as this Jewel, now can display alcohol outside of a defined liquor department after the city council relaxed regulations this week.

      Grocery stores in Naperville, such as this Jewel, now can display alcohol outside of a defined liquor department after the city council relaxed regulations this week. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
 

Stores that sell packaged liquor in Naperville gained some freedom this week to display alcohol where they choose.

License holders now can expand their displays in many areas of the store instead of only inside a defined liquor department after the city council relaxed regulations Tuesday.

The loosened restrictions apply only to beer and wine -- not to hard alcohol or spirits -- and they prohibit the beverages from being placed within 10 feet of a sales counter or public entrance. Restrictions also include limits on the percentage of floor space that can be taken up by alcohol -- both inside a defined department and scattered throughout the store.

Total liquor displays must not exceed 20 percent of a store's retail area. The limits are tighter for pharmacies with liquor licenses, which are limited to displaying alcohol on 5 percent of their selling floor, and for holders of licenses to sell beer and wine, which are limited to using 3 percent of their retail space for alcohol.

Grocers such as Jewel, Whole Foods and Standard Market supported the changes that will allow them to cross-promote beer and wine with suggested food pairings in aisles and at the end of aisles throughout their stores.

"To put your fears aside, we're not looking to turn Whole Foods Market into a liquor store," representative Jeremy Komar said.

But Katy Leclair, CEO of 360 Youth Services, asked for an additional restriction to prevent so-called "end-cap" displays of alcohol at the edges of aisles. She said end-caps, while effective at marketing products to adults, also inadvertently put alcohol more frequently in front of children and teens whom social service providers are trying to warn of the dangers of underage drinking.

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The council didn't bite on Leclair's idea.

Despite objections from members Patty Gustin, Paul Hinterlong and Rebecca Boyd-Obarski, who voted against the relaxed regulations, the council approved the changes as a way to help Naperville grocers continue to compete.

Regulations approved Tuesday were stricter than an original proposal to allow liquor displays throughout stores without limits on how close they could be placed to entrances and checkout counters or on how much square footage they could occupy.

Despite Hinterlong's no vote, he said he liked aspects of the slightly stricter regulations introduced by council member Judith Brodhead, especially the fact the increased freedom only applies to beer and wine.

"Spirits is big not to have in the open," Hinterlong said. "Having that confined, I like."

He said his opposition came because he wasn't comfortable with the effect the looser restrictions could have on Naperville's brand and image as a child-friendly city.

Boyd-Obarski said she wanted liquor displays to be limited to a "much smaller" portion of retail area than 20 percent and Gustin said shoppers already know where to find alcohol and which foods it complements -- without additional advertising by businesses.

A final change to the liquor code says all tastings must still take place within the confined liquor display area.

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