Evanston’s long streak of increasing liquor licenses seems to have run dry of late. This was never more evident than during the Nov. 9 City Council meeting, which saw four restaurants either close or give up a liquor license and the City’s only Class U theater license disappear. The City also welcomed two new licenses and allowed one upgrade. With eight liquor matters on the agenda, there was little else to discuss.
“And here begins the liquor license line-up for tonight,” said Alderperson Jane Grover, 7th Ward, at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, held beforehand. All were introduced unanimously on the consent agenda, with rules suspended for the immediate passage for all closed-restaurant licenses.
Las Marias on Orrington Avenue, only recently converted to a Mexican restaurant from JT’s Sports bar, closed its doors in September. As such, it gave up its C-1 license, one of the rare 3 a.m. licenses available only in the downtown core district. With a renewal fee of $8,000, it is the most expensive restaurant license on the books. The C-1 is far from the most expensive liquor license, however. Grocery stores’ licenses, Class F and Class F-1, range from $35,000 to $40,000 to apply with $11,500 to $13,000 annual renewal. A beer/wine-only Class G costs $20,000 initially and $4,100 annually.
Up on Green Bay Road, Terra American Bistro also closed this fall, tossing back its Class D license. The Class D is the most common restaurant license, allowing service until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. on weekends. That license costs $2,800 initially and $2,800 to renew each year. At the end of the Nov. 9 meeting, there were 49 such licenses in Evanston bringing in $137,200 per year in license fees alone. Terra’s closing made it 48 – for the moment.
Another class D to disappear came from Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop. Evanston’s Dixie Kitchen was sister to the Hyde Park establishment then-Senator Barack Obama praised on the PBS show “Check Please” in 2009. A sign on the window promises Dixie Kitchen will return under different management.
Bravo Cucina Italiana also closed its doors, within hours of Dixie Kitchen’s going dark. Bravo had a Class C license, available only in the downtown core. Class C allows restaurants or hotels to stay open until 2 a.m. on Thursdays and certain holidays, as well as Fridays and Saturdays. Class Cs cost $4,300 to start and annually. With Bravo’s now relinquished, 20 Class Cs remain here.
Gone also is the City’s only Class U license, allowing beer and wine in a theatreer before a show and during intermission. Piccolo Theatre paid $500 for the license, but decided not to pay another $500 to renew it.
Converting to C-1 from C, allowing service until 3 a.m. and increasing its renewal cost from $4,300 to $8,000, was 27 Live, the fifth Class C-1 3 a.m. bar.
Two new Class Ds have arrived: The Starbucks at 519 Main St. joins the growing number of coffee shops now serving liquor. Finally, the one new restaurant seeking a license was Nakorn on Orrington Avenue. Nakorn, a Thai restaurant, expects to open early 2016, provided the City approves construction plans.
While dominating for much of the night, liquor was not the only issue on the agenda. City Council also passed a resolution urging Illinois State leaders to release non-general fund revenues payable to local governments.
“Do you think this will do it?” asked Alderman Ann Rainey, 8thWard, tongue firmly in cheek.