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City Council introduced on Monday night, Feb. 27, an application by a proposed new “restaurant,” World of Beer, for a liquor license. The ordinance was introduced under a cloud, however, because the Evanston liquor code, which distinguishes no less than 31 separate categories of liquor licenses, has no place for a bar that does not serve food.
The new establishment would be located on Fountain Square in the exact spot that would have been occupied by the rejected Tilted Kilt and only steps away from the now-defunct Evanston Keg. The Administration and Public Works Committee, debating the application, seemed generally to favor the applicant. Several members balked, however, at the effort to shoehorn the operation’s business model into the Class B liquor license.
Dick Peach of the Liquor Control Review Board said that under Class B, food was supposed to be “primary” and liquor an “adjunct.” the World of Beer, true to its name, would serve no food and in fact would have no kitchen at all. Mr. Peach said he was not opposed to World of Beer, but “if we’re going to authorize a bar, then, fine, let’s call it a bar and write an ordinance for a bar.”
World of Beer plans to offer food, according to their application, by providing patrons with take-out menus from nearby restaurants. Customers will then be able to order food at all times and have the food brought to their table. Ted Mavrakis, representing World of Beer, said, “I have Giordano’s just a block away.” He also owns Giordano’s on Chicago Avenue. He said he planned to approach nearby restaurants, such as Lulu’s, and ask them to participate. Restaurants should benefit from the increased business, he said.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said, “The application does not fit our code. I want this to happen, but not in a way that [is outside] our code.” She said, though, that she remembered going to the now-closed Bill’s Blues Bar on Davis Street and ordering Hecky’s Barbeque. Bill’s Blues had a Class B1 liquor license with the same “food primary” requirements, despite the fact that it had a very limited kitchen.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that a place offering menus from other restaurants “really isn’t a restaurant.”
Mr. Peach said, “A number of restaurants in downtown are already hollering. … They have to keep kitchens open until 3:00 a.m.,” while World of Beer does not even have a kitchen.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said that obtaining written agreements – contracts – with nearby restaurants might make this proposal different. Contracts under which restaurants partner with World of Beer to be the kitchen and provide the food service element might make the concept work, she said.
Try as they might, though, the Committee could not escape the difficulty of defining World of Beer as a restaurant. “The intent of the code seems to be restaurant first,” said Ald. Grover. “It is hard to argue that a place named the World of Beer that serves no food can be called a restaurant first.”
The Committee introduced the ordinance but asked that the ordinance return to committee for further debate in two weeks. Perhaps a solution can be crafted in that time period. Or perhaps Evanston will add a 32nd liquor license classification as per Mr. Peach’s suggestion, and call a bar a bar.