Should the Village of Oak Park loosen its liquor laws to allow for micro-breweries, drinks without food, and beverages at bed & breakfasts? Survey says ... most definitely.
The Downtown Oak Park Business Association released the results of an alcohol-related survey last week, which asked whether the village should be more lenient in regulating liquor. Some 832 people responded and, showed broad, and in some cases overwhelming, support for laxer laws.
About 90 percent said they're OK with Oak Park letting performance venues serve beer and wine. And 88.7 percent support the village allowing microbreweries and brew pubs to set up shop in town.
"I honestly am not surprised by any of these answers," said Pat Zubak, executive director of Downtown Oak Park. "They're what I've been hearing from the community and business owners over the past few years."
The majority of respondents also supported the idea of the village allowing patrons to order drinks at a restaurant without ordering food, more than one packaged liquor license in every business district, and alcohol service starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
In the comment section of the survey, those against loosening liquor laws gave reasons such as Oak Park "becoming a 'party zone,'" "liver disease is not pretty," "I prefer tight controls on liquor," and increasing availability "will be bad for our youth." On the other side, those in favor argued that being more liberal could lead to economic growth, nightlife and attracting tourists to breweries.
Downtown Oak Park sent out the survey last month, hoping to drum up input ahead of a public hearing by the Liquor Control Review Board Tuesday to discuss possible liquor law changes, which was after Wednesday Journal's deadline.
Oak Park has been working for months to explore changing the laws. The village board held a first reading of a couple of proposed changes to its liquor ordinance, including eliminating the requirement that restaurants have a physically separate area for their bar. At the same time, trustees last month asked the liquor board to hold further hearings to determine whether the community wants to see even more easing of liquor laws, which brought about Tuesday's meeting.
Village Manager Tom Barwin, who has advocated for the village to ease up on alcohol, said he, too, wasn't surprised by the survey's results. With all the time people spend staring at their computers, he believes that pubs would help bring residents together to hangout. Barwin thinks the village has the resources to shut down anyone who disobeys the new laws.
"We need places where people can get together and socialize, and doing so over a glass of beer or wine is a fun way for people to do that," he said.