Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Board voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend city liquor laws be amended to permit up to 10 one-day liquor licenses per year.

The licenses would be used for special events in public parks, from outdoor concerts to formal group gatherings.

The proposed license option would allow alcohol to be bought and sold in parks, if a permit applicant seeks to sell drinks, but people can also apply simply to possess and consume alcohol on park land for one-day events, according to Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson.

Beaches are not included in the ordinance and not eligible for a one-day liquor license use.

From left: Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson and Board President Robert Bush discuss the agenda as board members John Bryan, Mary Rosinski and Donald Michelin look on. Credit: Duncan Agnew

Anyone who wants to host an event with alcohol in a park will have to provide their own security along with sufficient bathroom and sanitary facilities, according to the drafted ordinance approved by the Parks and Recreation Board. Applicants also would be responsible for purchasing liquor liability insurance and paying the city’s $115 license fee for residents and $340 fee for nonresidents.

“There have been numerous requests from community members to hold events which would include the service and consumption of alcoholic beverages in City parks,” the proposed ordinance says.


Evanston resident Louis Head said at Thursday’s meeting that he thought the amendment to city code was a bad idea.

“As a citizen walking through the park, I don’t want to walk into a situation where there’s a hundred people drinking and getting out of control. The park is a beautiful place, and I walk through it all the time, almost every day,” he said. “And I don’t want to all of the sudden walk into a bad situation because some person who got the licensing went out of control and started selling liquor to anybody and everybody.”

Addressing Head’s concerns, Parks and Recreation Board President Robert Bush said Thursday’s approval was only the first step in a multipart process to amend Evanston’s liquor codes. The amendment will next go before the Liquor Control Review Board on Monday, April 24, before heading to the full City Council for consideration.

Thompson also added that the city has its own Special Events Committee, which she chairs, that has to directly review any applications for one of these one-day licenses. Plus, under the ordinance as written, the mayor reserves the right to revoke any license if the permit holder fails to meet any of the obligations of the contract, such as exceeding the maximum number of event attendees, for example.

“It’s a huge process. Public Works is there. We talk about trash containers, restrooms that have to be ADA accessible, so there’s an entire process,” she said. “The Police Department, depending on the event, will tell the individuals who come with the special event application just how many officers need to be present, not necessarily based on the number [of people] but the type of event. And we have declined events that have come to the Special Events Committee before.”

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Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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