As Oak Park has gradually relaxed its liquor laws over recent decades, one place it has not gone was the approval of a straight up tavern. No food, no pretending there was food, just a place to have a drink.
Two years ago Village Trustee Peter Barber asked why that was the case and the village government’s Liquor Control Review Commission was charged with exploring the issue.
Monday night the village board received a recommendation from the commission that the village not create a new licensing category allowing taverns. But, said Victoria Scaman, chair of the commission, that doesn’t mean Oak Park could never have a tavern. Instead, she said, no entrepreneur has ever proposed a tavern and if such a proposal came forward she said her commission recommended that they be allowed to consider such a request on its merits.
Scaman said the existing ordinance allows the village to review each liquor license request individually and that there has been no request for a tavern-only liquor license.
She said the current process “allows us to customize [its review of a liquor license application] and look at the business plan and be thoughtful about what a good fit it is to our community.”
The liquor review board conducted informal interviews with law enforcement, community members and drug and alcohol experts working with youth in Oak Park, during its review of the tavern question.
“The LCRB recommends to the village board that it not consider a potential tavern classification until an applicant presents the need,” according to the letter sent to the village board.
Following the presentation, the village board unanimously approved a liquor license for Saigon Pho & Café at 726 Lake St. Trustee Colette Lueck was not present and both Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and trustee Glenn Brewer recused themselves from the vote because of a potential conflict of interest.
Abu-Taleb is a long-time restaurateur and owner of Maya del Sol, 144 S. Oak Park Ave., and Brewer is an investor in Kinslahger Brewing Co., a recently opened brewery at 6806 W. Roosevelt Rd.