Oak Park restaurants that do not currently have a liquor license can now allow patrons to bring their own beer and wine under an ordinance approved, following a heated debate, by the Oak Park Board of Trustees.
In order for restaurants to get a BYOB license, they must pay a $500 fee to the village, send its employees through a state-certified alcohol server training program and get liability insurance. Those businesses can only allow BYOB between the hours of noon and 11 p.m.
The decision came at the recommendation of the Oak Park Liquor Control Review Board. Trustee Andrea Button, liaison to the liquor board, said the ordinance “levels the playing field between those establishments that don’t have a liquor license and liquor license holders that are required to pay money to have alcohol in their establishments.”
She said the fee would help offset the cost of “public safety” enforcement that results from allowing alcoholic beverage consumption in more establishments.
Trustees Deno Andrews and Simone Boutet were the two dissenting votes against the proposal.
Andrews pointed out that there is currently no ordinance or law prohibiting BYOB in restaurants in Oak Park, adding that creating a license and requiring restaurants to get insurance to serve is an undue burden on business owners.
“I think this is a somewhat well-thought-out solution that doesn’t have a problem,” Andrews said. “I’m not aware of any BYO issues that have come up in the village in recent times.”
Andrews called the proposal an “overreach of government” saying, “We’re going to make something legal that’s already legal, but now we’re going to charge you money for something that you’re already paying for, which is a business license, so if a restaurant can allow people to BYOB, which I think legally they can, now we’re going to charge them $500 more and give them all sorts of stipulations.”
Boutet agreed, saying restaurants like Grape Leaves, 129 S. Oak Park Ave., has allowed BYOB without any problems. “And right now we’re basically going to be imposing restrictions on them that we haven’t really had a problem with,” she said.
She noted that the $500 fee also is higher than other communities like Deerfield and Mount Prospect, where the fees are $200 and $250, respectively.
Trustee James Taglia argued that the village would lose some tax revenue if patrons decide to dine at BYOB restaurants over those with liquor licenses. “We are losing revenue in allowing this to happen because we get 3 percent on the sales, and if people are bringing it in, we’re not getting that,” he said.
Andrews said the fee should be lowered to somewhere between $75 and $100.
“It’s a money grab to me,” he said. “We have no evidence to suggest that we’re going to lose money; we have no evidence to suggest that this is a problem.”
Trustees voted against a similar proposal that would have allowed retail businesses, such as nail salons, to allow patrons to bring their own beer and wine.
They also declined to include businesses like the Nineteenth Century Club from obtaining a BYOB license.
Nineteenth Century Club Executive Director Jeanne Schultz Angel asked trustees to include organizations like hers because those who rent the venue often inquire about bringing their own beer and wine to events to save on cost.
“We need an even playing field for venues across the village,” she said.