The Liquor Control Review Board voted unanimously 4-0 on Tuesday, March 7, to approve two new licenses, pending a City Council vote March 13.

But before Bookends & Beginnings, 1620 Orrington Ave., and Soul & Smoke, 1601 Payne St., can expedite getting new liquor licenses, Council Members Clare Kelly (1st Ward), and Bobby Burns (5th Ward), whose wards include the two establishments, will have to request a suspension of the rule that two votes are required for a change in liquor licenses.

Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss listens as Bookends’ owner Nina Barrett speaks during the meeting. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

After moving into the store’s new location, Bookends’ owner Nina Barrett plans to use the space as an entertainment site under an F-3 license, with customers able to enjoy single-size servings of wine and beer as they browse the shelves.

“It is increasingly important for bookstores across the country to have supplemental revenue models. The margins on book sales are very, very tight,” she said.

Council Member Kelly, who attended the meeting virtually, indicated support for the move. “I think this is really exciting. This is [what] economic viability is about,” she said.

Burns was not at the meeting.

“I think it’s good for the whole surrounding block and downtown. Vibrancy is really what we need as we re-conceptualize public spaces after the pandemic,” Mayor Daniel Biss said.

Meanwhile, Soul and Smoke, which currently has a Class T license, has applied for a Class D to more closely align with its operations.

“We are hoping to make the official transition away from caterer and switch to a restaurant license,” said co-owner Heather Bublick.

Board members Jeff Joseph (from left), Ty Phillips and Craig Likhite listen during the Tuesday meeting. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

Board member Jeff Joseph asked about the bar space at the site, with Bublick responding that the restaurant has a service bar.

Under state law, businesses serving alcohol are required to apply for licenses at the city and state and pay taxes at both levels. During the meeting, Joseph asked whether the city can reconsider its 6% liquor tax rate and suggested a combined tax for food and alcohol.

“It’s a somewhat different tax structure than other communities. I think it’s always worth revisiting and figuring out what’s the best path forward,” Biss said.

The board, however, tabled discussions over amendments to the city code around alcohol sales.

“It’s not gonna be simple, but it’s a conversation worth having,” Biss said.

Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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