The Village of Oak Park could take a look at making the rules a little less strict about when or where you can drink a glass of beer or wine at local establishments.

Possibilities to be explored include allowing restaurants to serve alcohol at outdoor seating areas without requiring people to buy food. Could straight-up bars that don’t serve any food eventually be allowed within Oak Park?

The village board recently approved a minor change to requirements for B-4 restaurant liquor licenses. Before, restaurant owners needed to have a barrier between “lounge” and dining areas to distinguish the two. But Oak Park is scrapping the requirement, which could be difficult for some smaller restaurants to meet, such as the new Kinderhook Tap on Oak Park Avenue, just south of Van Buren.

At the village board meeting last week, trustee Jon Hale suggested that the village ratchet things up and consider further loosening laws governing liquor licenses. For instance, Hale says patrons should be able to drink a cocktail anywhere in a restaurant, inside or out, without being required to order food.

“It’s not hard for them to meet the food requirement, but I just question why you need to bother with it,” Hale said in a phone interview. “I think it’s worth at least exploring and seeing what restaurant owners think and what residents think.”

When issues came up with Kinderhook’s license, the village started taking a harder look at its liquor laws to see if there are other guidelines that are causing problems, said Village Clerk Teresa Powell.

At a coming village board meeting, Powell said, trustees will amend the work plan of the Oak Park Liquor Control Review Board, asking them to poke and probe for any such issues.

“We thought it would be a good idea to talk to those restaurants that have a license and see what their experiences have been, and if there are any issues out there to deal with,” she said.

Powell says that Oak Park has come along way, evolving from when the village used to be dry in the early 1960s.The village may look at other suburbs, too, and explore how communities handle similar issues that come up in Oak Park. It’s possible that the liquor board could start the new work as early as its June 21 meeting, Powell said.

Hale said he’s not necessarily in favor of liquor stores or straight-up bars in Oak Park, but he wants to hear what the community thinks of the idea.

“I’m not sure we should fall back automatically and say we’ve always done things a certain way and we’re not going to look back.”

Poor Phil’s owner Dennis Murphy – who, as owner of Philander’s in 1980, got one of Oak Park’s first restaurant liquor licenses – is fine with the village’s current rules. He says his customers rarely complain that they can’t have a drink outside without food.

“I’m not really running a beer garden there,” Murphy said. “We’ve been doing it for 20 years or so, and the customers don’t seem to mind.”

Murphy doesn’t see the point of having bars in Oak Park, while Oak Parker Kristin Graham, who owns Kinderhook Tap, thinks it’s a good idea.

“I’m all for having a few more establishments in the area. I think far too many people go to Madison Street in Forest Park,” she said.

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