Outdoor seating likely for Naperville brewery
A cold beer outside on a hot day could be in store this summer for fans of Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville.
Brewery President John Barley got preliminary approval Thursday to add an outdoor seating area to the taproom at 1661 Quincy Ave., Suite 179.
Liquor commissioners who unanimously gave the nod for the outdoor element at the brewery established in 2012 also approved a request for Solemn Oath to produce more barrels of beer each year and to serve beers by other brewers at twice-yearly marketing events.
But the commission stopped short of granting the last request that Barley says would make his business more competitive with new breweries that have opened in the suburbs with less restrictive liquor licenses.
Taproom staff still must limit each customer to three beers in a single visit under the business' Class P brewery liquor license, despite Barley's request for the cap to be lifted. The limit does not apply to other bars in Naperville that are licensed as taverns or restaurants.
"We were one of the first tap rooms to open here in the state of Illinois and it's a much more competitive market now. A lot of surrounding communities don't have a beer limit," Barley said. "We're interested in having the flexibility of not having that three-beer limit be something that our business is defined by."
Liquor Commissioner and Mayor Steve Chirico said he doubts unlimited pouring privileges for the brewery would fly with the city council, and his advisers on the commission said they agree.
While the taproom often hosts food trucks and Solemn Oath encourages customers to bring or order delivery of their own food, the business doesn't have a kitchen, and Barley said it's unlikely he'd be interested in opening one. That could be a sticking point if he continues to seek removal of the three-beer limit.
"Having no limit at all without a kitchen starts for me to feel like that tavern kind of situation," Commissioner Joe Vozar said. "The kitchen thing is a big deal. We've said that's an important aspect around our licensing. We have a limited number of tavern licenses and not a big appetite to expand that."
Police said there have been no issues with Solemn Oath since it opened, and Barley said his employees would continue to serve responsibly even without a beers-per-customer limit.
"We would be policing ourselves and it would be on us," he said. "We don't take that lightly."
Barley said he plans to come back to the liquor commission with a stronger case for removal of the three-beer limit. For now, consideration of his other requests will progress to the city council.
If the council approves the liquor commission's recommendations, Solemn Oath will be able to create an outdoor seating area, brew up to 120,000 barrels of beer a year as allowed in state code and serve brews by other companies during the two marketing events it's permitted to host each year.