Evanston City Council members narrowly approved Northwestern University request for a liquor license for special events at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Dec. 9, tacking on some restrictions at the request of an alderman.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle, in whose north central Seventh Ward Welsh-Ryan Arena is located, proposed the restrictions, responding to concerns from constituents about the effect of liquor sales on adjacent neighborhoods.

Residents in the area had strongly opposed the Council’s earlier approval of the University’s request to hold more commercial and professional events at Welsh-Ryan, citing the traffic, parking and littering, and sometimes unruly fan behavior  already resulting from NU game day events.

The current R liquor ordinance the University holds does not permit the sale of liquor at Welsh-Ryan.

Ald. Revelle suggested several amendments if the Council granted the ordinance change.

They included stopping alcohol sales no later than a half-hour before the end of an event as well as a two-alcohol-beverage-per- transaction limit.

In discussion at the Dec. 9 meeting, Ald. Revelle maintained the 30-minute cutoff should apply “for all kinds of events,” not just main feature ones.

Ald. Donald Wilson, 4th Ward, pointed to activities that, unlike sports like basketball, have less of a defined ending.

“You know if you have a volleyball game that goes into 36 extra points or something there’s no defined time,” he noted.

Ald. Revelle expressed confidence that Northwestern officials are 

“clever enough” to come up with a formula to apply to those situations.

Her second amendment called for a limit of two alcoholic beverages per person per transaction, contrasting with situations where someone would be “able to buy eight drinks at a time, for example,” she explained.

She noted the amendment “was standard language for a lot of the liquor ordinances which apply to other Big 10 arenas.”

Checking with Ald. Revelle, Mayor Stephen Hagerty confirmed that the amendment meant “that when somebody buys alcohol they can’t buy more than two drinks.”

Ald. Revelle confirmed that was the case, explaining, “You can take one back for your friend, but not for six friends.”

The amendment set no limit on the number of transactions an attendee might engage in at a special event.

Council members passed the amendment by an 8-0 vote.

Aldermen deadlocked 4-4, however, on the overall ordinance, as amended, giving Northwestern the green light to move ahead with liquor sales at Welsh-Ryan events.

Mayor Hagerty broke the tie, voting in favor of the ordinance.

Voting “Yes” were Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward; Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward; Donald Wilson, 4th Ward; and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward.

Voting no were Aldermen Melissa Wynn, 3rd Ward; Thomas Suffredin, 6th Ward; Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward; and Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward was absent from the vote.

As drafted, the ordinance permits the sale of alcohol only at Welsh-Ryan and no other venue, the City’s memo noted.

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.