St. Charles liquor license request renews fears of bar town image

 
 

A new business that would bring 250 craft beers to St. Charles is also fueling fears that it would bring back a bar town reputation.

The city liquor commission and aldermen took a first look at a plan to Monday that would see the Global Brew Tap House move into the former Real Time Sports location at 2100 Prairie St. The venue would serve about 180 people and feature live entertainment. It would not feature a kitchen or any substantive menu other than prepackaged snacks. Instead, it would allow patrons to order or carry in food from other establishments.

That lack of food at the ready raised concerns that the city would be sending the wrong message to bar patrons by approving a liquor license for the business.

Aldermen Rita Payleitner and Maureen Lewis, who also sit on the city's liquor commission, said the business would set a precedent they don't want to see in the city.

"The intent of the law is not to have a liquor service-only business," Payleitner said. "I think the intent was that we serve food with alcohol in St. Charles. If this place is going to seat upwards of 200 people, a toaster oven and a bag of popcorn just isn't going to do it."

But police Chief Jim Keegan said the precedent for alcohol service with limited food already exists in the city. Dawn's Beach Hut is a specialty drink business that has no kitchen. The Arcada Theatre hosts events with alcohol sales and no kitchen. And the House Pub has served alcohol since at least 2009 with complimentary popcorn as the only food offering.

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Several aldermen were shocked to learn about those examples, going as far as to call some of them as out of compliance with city law. But other aldermen, and city attorney Jim McGuirk pointed out there is no specific requirement for a kitchen in city code. There is only a requirement for a menu or reduced menu. And there is no description of how reduced that menu can be.

"You could say the menu could be pretzels and peanuts," McGuirk said. "There are no specific details."

That created enough wiggle room for aldermen to approve the plans for the Global Brew Tap House. But not all aldermen wanted to. Payleitner and Lewis pointed out the business is located right next to a residential area with people they were sure would not welcome such an establishment. They also said the business sets a precedent the could remove any incentive for future or existing businesses to have kitchens.

"If we're going down this path where nobody needs to have food in their establishment, I think it's the wrong direction to go," Lewis said.

Aldermen decided to move the application forward while agreeing to examine the overall language of the city's liquor laws to address what seems to be a trend in specialty drink businesses coming to the area. That discussion will continue in coming weeks. The full city council must act on the Global Brew Tap House liquor license application before it becomes final.

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