Having read two opposing views on this village tavern proposal, I would like to weigh in on the subject if I may. I was in the “bar/restaurant” business for just about 31 years. I owned and managed, along with my family, two establishments — the first one on Chicago’s West Side for nine years, the second up in Glenview for 22 years. 

I loved to refer to our establishment as a “tavern.” That was preferable to calling it a “saloon” (so honky-tonk), a “pub” (so British), a “restaurant” (too fancy), a “beer joint” (a definite downgrade), a “lounge” (so shady), a “gin mill” (too “alcoholic”), etc. You get my point.

The word “tavern” connotes to me something going back to the days of the Revolutionary War and beyond, giving a sense of warmth, hospitality, camaraderie. A place where the townspeople went to meet and greet, to gather the latest news, and gossip about anything and everything as they sat around with their friends and/or families, drinking and eating.

It also portrays a feeling of historical Americana.

So it is my opinion that what the village is talking about here is not about allowing a new category of liquor establishments called taverns but about allowing establishments where beer and liquor only will be sold, meaning the food sales to alcohol sales is no longer a factor in allowing that establishment to exist as a business. About 25-30 years ago, I first heard about the various municipalities who were considering the possibility of issuing liquor licenses as a source of new revenue. I’m speaking of those villages and towns which had formally been “dry.”

As a condition of any establishment obtaining a liquor license, it was quite commonly mandated that the business had to serve food along with its liquor sales, the usual requirement being 50% of its total sales had to be in the food category. Even though I was already meeting that criteria in our tavern, voluntarily and not prescribed by any law to which I was bound, I expressed very strong opinions as to how Draconian I thought those laws to be. However, over the years, and after much observation, I now totally agree with those laws. 

I’m not sure, but I think Oak Park was one of the first villages entering into this competition; certainly they were early on in the process of proposing and passing these new liquor laws. Food fare, no longer any doubt in my mind, does definitely upgrade the aspect of clientele in any place where alcohol can or will be sold. Overall, the more food, the better the food being served and the lesser the potential for problems in any drinking establishment. As a police chief told me long ago, while I was trying to sell him on the idea as to how I would be running a “clean” establishment: “Even the Palmer House has its problems now and then!” 

If the whole idea on the part of the Village is to allow “Alcohol Only” places of business for the sole sake of increased revenue, I would guess that they are entering into the realm of “diminishing returns.” 

As an Oak Park resident, I would vote “No” to that proposal.

Tom Dwyer is a resident of Mills Park Tower. 

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