Liquor moratorium exceptions: What is the law? What is alderman’s position?

Report and commentary By Greg Nagel

As described in detail in last month’s newsletter article written by John Scheer, over eight years ago a liquor moratorium was put in effect in East Village covering both tavern and packaged sales licenses.

The East Village enjoys several 2 block moratoriums that run from Chicago Avenue to Damen to the south side of Division to Ashland.

At our last membership meeting (January 2008) Eddie Ratwan, owner of Damen & Augusta Foods at 1001 North Damen, was a guest speaker and requested the membership for support and signatures for granting him a Packaged Sales liquor license.

However, the actual law does not provide a mechanism for allowing a single existing business that does not currently have a liquor license to gain one without the Aldermen removing the entire moratorium for the entire moratorium area. Therefore, a change for one business would be a neighborhood change that requires a lot more consideration.

And when an alderman is considering making this type of change it’s important that they to ask themselves the right question which is, “Am I in favor of lifting an existing moratorium to benefit a single business?” That is a different question than whether or not to put a new moratorium into place.

Perhaps the confusion regarding what the actual law is stems from the fact that there is a signature mechanism (#6 below) for businesses that currently have a liquor licenses to transfer their license within a moratorium area. The 6 exceptions that permit existing liquor licenses to be transferred in a moratorium are:

  1. Between spouses;

  2. Between parents and children;

  3. An heir of the prior license by estate succession or a will;

  4. Any shareholder who already held shares prior to the creation of the moratorium area;

  5. Any person acquiring less than 5% of the shares of a corporate licensee;

  6. Any other person who acquiring the licensed business by purchase if that person can obtain the consent of over 51% of the registered voters within 500 feet of the premises.

As I’m sure many of you recall from the meeting or perhaps read in the Jan. 10 front-page Chicago Journal article, “Mom and pop push for booze,” Mr. Ratwan stated that he was directed to speak to EVA by Alderman Flores. As the Aldermanic liaison for the EVA, I called Alderman Flores to get his official position on this.

The alderman indicated that his position is that he has repeatedly told Mr. Ratwan, “Flat out No” multiple times. And that his official policy is that he does not remove existing moratoriums. Further,
the alderman indicated that Mr. Ratwan had been lobbying him for a Packaged Sales license well before Dominicks on Chicago Avenue was announced.
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