Changes to the City’s liquor code that were passed several weeks ago produced unintended consequences in the form of an application by DMK Burgers and Fish. The restaurant’s stated interest is to serve beer and wine only, yet the amended code no longer makes a distinction between restaurants serving beer and wine only and those serving all alcoholic beverages. All restaurant licenses now permit the sale of all alcoholic beverages.
When the matter came before the Administration and Public Works Committee on June 9, Chair Delores Holmes said that First Ward Alderman Judy Fiske had requested that it be held because of concerns in the neighborhood about the sale of hard liquor in such a small space (the restaurant seats but 26) in a largely residential area.
“There were some concerns about the sale of liquor,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward. “I received some emails.”
Ald. Fiske said the neighborhood was “supportive of beer and wine, but if there’s liquor there is no support, literally no support for that.” She said a meeting with the owner “will be very useful.”
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said that the City was working to set up a meeting between the restaurant owner and the aldermen of the First and Fifth wards, Alds. Fiske and Holmes. After the meeting, the measure will immediately return to Council for deliberation, he said.
“We have no confirmed meeting date as yet but we are endeavoring to set it up,” said the City’s Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar.
David Morton, one of the owners of DMK, said “at this time” he had no intention of serving anything other than beer and wine at DMK. “We’ve got eight other restaurants” in the Chicagoland area, he said. “It’s a little different process out here. … This is our fourth meeting” with the City.
While several residents pounced on the “at this time” portion of Mr. Morton’s statement, Alderman Colleen Burrus, 9thWard, addressed the other concern raised.
“I just want to be really clear that we’re acknowledging” how difficult it can be for a small business to navigate the City of Evanston’s licensing maze, she said.
Ald. Braithwaite returned the conversation to beer and wine versus a full bar.
“Conceptually and philosophically, we feel like beer is who we are,” said Mr. Morton.
“I understand the intention,” said Ald. Holmes, but the license will allow the sale of hard liquor.
Mr. Farrar confirmed that fact. “A Class D license allows the sale of alcoholic liquor,” he said.
“We did make all those amendments,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “I surely did miss that part. They can eventually serve anything they like.” She made a reference to the liquor review board to “take a look at” reinstating restaurant licenses that were limited to beer and wine only.
“That’s consistent with how most other markets work,” offered Mr. Morton.
As if to emphasize the need for further tweaks to the code, the next item on the agenda was the application of the Piccolo Theater for a liquor license allowing the theater to serve patrons during performances.
“Can I understand what you are going to serve?” asked Ald. Braithwaite.
“Beer and wine,” said John Szostek of the theater.