Naperville council approves liquor sales at sidewalk cafes
Up to five downtown Naperville restaurants will be able to sell alcohol on public sidewalks in an expansion of city liquor law approved Tuesday night.
A $500 sidewalk permit will allow alcohol service within enclosed areas on the public way until 10 p.m. once the city approves a site plan for the layout, fencing and furniture. The privilege will expire in a year and the city council must vote again to approve it if members want the practice to continue.
The sidewalk privilege will expand outdoor alcohol service that already takes place at restaurants with patios on their own private property. It passed 5-3 with city council member Becky Anderson absent, despite concerns from council members Patty Gustin, Rebecca Boyd-Obarski and Paul Hinterlong about additional exposure of youth to alcohol in a "kid-friendly town."
"What message are we sending if we're going to provide alcohol on the sidewalks," Gustin said. "I don't want Naperville to become a Bourbon Street."
Supporters said sidewalk service will be highly regulated and enforced by Naperville police, with beverages poured and delivered to customers only by wait staff members who have completed a training program. The ability to review site plans will help the city ensure at least a 5-foot-wide segment of sidewalk remains for pedestrians to safely pass.
"We're really going to improve the situation in terms of public safety," Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico said.
Deputy police Chief Jason Arres said the department intends to continue closely monitoring calls for service in the downtown as well as crime statistics on offenses such as fighting and disorderly conduct. Council members said they plan to review those statistics next year as they decide whether sidewalk liquor sales created any problems.
"It's not as if children are going to see alcohol for the first time with our doing this," council member Kevin Coyne said. "The one-year cap is a huge safety net. If this turns out to be a problem, then we simply won't do it anymore."
Restaurants including The Craftsman by Two Brothers, Front Street Cantina, Sullivan's Steakhouse and Quiubo already have expressed interest in selling alcoholic drinks on sidewalks at their downtown locations, city prosecutor and deputy legal director Kavita Athanikar said.
Those four restaurants and one more can apply without additional city review. But if any more than five restaurants want to sell alcohol on sidewalks, the council would need to raise a cap on the number of permits it will grant.