Council reviews liquor licenses

By Markos Moulitsas

In a move designed to attract more restaurants and hotels into DeKalb, the DeKalb City Council removed any restrictions on the amount of Class E and Class F liquor licenses that can be issued Monday night.

A Class E license allows alcohol to be served in restaurants seating over 300, while Class F allows the serving of alcohol in hotels and motels with over 50 rooms.

A limit of ten Class E licenses had been in place under the old ordinance but the last two had been taken, prompting the need to amend the ordinance. The last two permits went to Red Lobster, which will build a restaurant in the Wal-Mart parking lot, and to a restaurant opening up where the DeKalb Theater once stood.

The lifting of the Class F licenses was decided upon after the removal of the Class E restrictions.

DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow supported the move, saying it was necessary to accommodate restaurants, hotels and motels wanting to move into DeKalb.

“Five years ago we had a limit of five (Class E liquor licenses) and it didn’t accommodate any growth … so we doubled the limit to ten,” Sparrow said.

The move turned out to be only temporary, and new population growth in DeKalb forced another look at the ordinance.

“I’ve been getting inquiries from various restaurant chains about expanding to DeKalb … and to me (liquor license limits) are somewhat self-limiting,” Sparrow said.

Sixth Ward Ald. Brad Strauss said the limits had been designed to keep the city from being “ridden with bars in every corner.”

But Strauss said, “Most restaurants are respectable, and (the old) limits would prevent places like Bennigan’s from opening in DeKalb.”

Strauss also asked why the city should put limits on potential economic growth. He said he supported economic development in DeKalb and was glad an obstacle to such development had been lifted.

Sparrow said there was popular support for the action, saying he had received many calls from people wanting more restaurant chains in the area.

The amending of the municipal code lifting all Class E and Class F liquor restrictions passed with a 6-1 vote in the council. The lone dissenting vote on both ordinances was cast by 5th Ward Ald. Bessie Chronopoulos.

Chronopoulos said the amount of licenses needed were “basically controlled through population … (and) I didn’t see the need” to remove all restrictions. She said she would have preferred raising the limit of allowed licenses.

There are three other major liquor licenses. A Class A license is for full-liquor establishments, such as bars and liquor stores, a Class B license is for restaurants that serve only beer and wine and a Class C is for clubs, such as the Elks and the American Legion.

There are currently no limits on Class C licenses. Class B licenses are limited to ten, but a few are still currently available. There are 16 Class A licenses, all of which have been taken. Sparrow said any move to raise the amount of Class A licenses would be met with strong public opposition and would be very unlikely to be proposed.

“I’ve been getting inquiries from various restaurant chains about expanding to DeKalb … and to me (liquor license limits) are somewhat self-limiting.” Greg Sparrow, DeKalb Mayor