Riverwalk Cafe likely to get Naperville's OK to sell alcohol before Starbucks

  • This Starbucks along Naper Boulevard could be the first to offer beer and wine as part of the "Starbucks Evenings" menu if Naperville liquor commissioners and city council members create a new license to allow the coffee giant to sell alcohol.

    This Starbucks along Naper Boulevard could be the first to offer beer and wine as part of the "Starbucks Evenings" menu if Naperville liquor commissioners and city council members create a new license to allow the coffee giant to sell alcohol. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer July 2015

 
 
Posted2/6/2016 6:30 AM

A park district-operated cafe along the Riverwalk and one of 12 Starbucks locations in Naperville both want to sell beer and wine, but the Riverwalk Cafe is likely to gain permission for liquor sales faster.

The city's liquor commission this week unanimously approved the park district's request for a license to sell beer and wine only at the cafe, which is undergoing renovations at 441 Aurora Ave.

 

But the same commission asked for information about how other municipalities where Starbucks is allowed to sell alcohol have regulated the practice. Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico said it's likely the topic will need a couple of more months of discussion before the city could let the coffee shop in the Fox Run Square shopping center offer craft beer and wine in its Starbucks Evenings program.

Of interest is whether communities have placed caps on the number of liquor licenses available for coffee shops. If Naperville created such a permit without a cap, nearly 30 coffee shops could seek it, City Prosecutor Kavita Athanikar said.

"There's some concern about, 'Do we really want every coffee shop in town being able to sell liquor?'" Athanikar said.

"I think everyone believes the answer is no," Chirico said.

Starbucks representatives and the city's legal department will gather details before a meeting next month about regulations in some of the roughly 50 Illinois communities where the Starbucks Evenings program is operating.

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The review continues a process that started in July, when Starbucks approached the liquor commission with a request to sell about a dozen craft beers and a dozen wines for $7 to $15 each from the same counter where coffee-lovers get their joe.

If the liquor commission gets on board with the coffee-shop-liquor-license idea, it still would need city council approval.

The council is where the possibility of liquor sales at the park district's Riverwalk Cafe is headed after unanimous approval from the commission.

Executive Director Ray McGury said the park district aims to open the cafe by Memorial Day with a new menu, renovated bathrooms and an outdoor seating area built in a roughly $500,000 project.

Athanikar said liquor commissioners were comfortable with the proposal because alcohol sales won't be the primary aim of the cafe.

"They really view liquor as a convenience for people who are enjoying the Riverwalk and its amenities," Athanikar said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The park district dropped its application for a liquor license last year when cafe renovations were postponed because the state suspended grants for park projects.

But after conducting a survey, McGury said district officials determined Riverwalk users wanted beer and wine to be available along with upgrades to accessibility and aesthetics at the 1980s-era snack shop.

"The vast majority of our sales are going to be in food," McGury said, "not in alcohol."

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