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Winnetka Could Relax Its Liquor License Laws

Some residents and business owners are hoping that Winnetka's strict liquor license laws will soon change due to a recommendations by the Urban Land Institute.

A recent study by the Urban Land Institute recommended the Village of Winnetka ease some of the regulations for Winnetka’s businesses, noting that “gastropubs” and “experience-based retail” (like a wine shop with tastings) would be a good addition to the village, the Chicago Tribune reported.

But in order for those things to happen, the regulations to get a liquor license must change – something some members of the community would love to see happen.

“When I first moved here 24 years ago, I don’t even think there was anywhere to purchase alcohol,” Terry Dason, Executive Director of the Winnetka-Northfield Chamber of Commerce said. “We’ve come a long way, but we’ve taken baby steps to get there.”

For a restaurant to hold a liquor license in the village, they must have a hostess or a host at the front door.

“[The council members] have to look to our neighbors and have open minds,” Dason said. “Look at what people are used to having that they’re not able to get here.”

In neighboring communities, including Wilmette and Northfield, the liquor laws are comparatively relaxed. In Wilmette, for example, a Class A liquor license can be obtained as long as long as the establishment offers food for patrons as well. Unlike Winnetka, there is no requirement to have a host.

Winnetka is also unusual in that businesses with liquor licenses can only serve alcohol to patrons who also order food, an April 2 Chicago Tribune article stated.

“I understand that this is a family-oriented community, and I did move here for that reason," Dason said. "But I’d like our council members when they’re talking to prospective restauranteers to really listen to them and consider what they’re trying to offer. … Just keep an open mind.”

A change in the village's liquor license policy might not be too far into the future, as Village President-elect Gene Greable is open to modifications to the current system.

“I support rethinking our strict liquor license policy,” he said.

He noted that while the final recommendations from the Urban Land Institute will be reported in July, he believes the changes need to be addressed.

“I believe we need to address changes because of different lifestyles today and the competition from surrounding communities,” he said. “Family activities are very important and revision of the license requirement is needed.”

A voting date for changes in the liquor license laws has not yet been set by the Winnetka Village Board of Trustees.

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