Aldermen have tabled for now a request by Northwestern University to establish a new liquor license that would allow beer sales at Welsh-Ryan arena.
At their regular Council meeting on July 8, aldermen pushed back action on the proposal to a later date, tying consideration to another request by the University to hold more special events at Welsh-Ryan.
Alderman Eleanor Revelle, in whose Seventh Ward the sports arena is located, moved to table the issue.
“The reason I want to do this is it’s really premature for us to approve this amendment to the liquor code, because we still don’t know exactly what’s in store for the Welsh-Ryan arena,” she said, noting Northwestern’s zoning request to hold more special events is still in its early stages.
That issue is expected to go to the Plan Commission in August and reach the Council in September or October at the latest, she said.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, pointed out that the proposal being considered had to do with creating a license category but “we’re not giving permission to have a liquor license.”
That would have to come in a separate request from the University once the new license category was created.
Residents spoke strongly against approval during the citizen portion of the meeting.
Vickie Burke, who lives a half block from the stadium, said Northwestern’s request should be denied.
“You know we embrace the football games. We’ve had season tickets since we bought the house in 1982,” she told aldermen. “Adding liquor and going into that area, I think, is the wrong thing to do. There are million-plus-dollar houses in the area. I think it will potentially change the property values, which changes the taxes.”
Joyce Zeiss, a resident of 2701 Eastwood Ave. for 45 years, said her house backs onto the west parking lot off Ryan Field. She said she is already contending with tailgaters.
“Now we’re faced with drinking at athletic events in the arena which will destroy the family [atmosphere] which we take our children, and now I take my grandchildren [to,]” she told aldermen. “And also I know this is a foot in the door to drinking in the stadium. I would just ask you with 50 events at the arena and the possibility of 7,000 people attending that you would consider our neighborhood but also the safety of students.”
Other speakers made similar points.
Laurie McFarlane asked aldermen to consider that there “are substantial safety issues that will come with having a pop-up bar selling to 7,000 people 50 times a year.”
Lynn Trautman said her property is 105 feet from Northwestern’s property line.
“ And if I had another neighbor who had parties 50 times a year and served beer to 8,000 to 40,000 people I would call the cops every time,” she maintained.