Alderman plans to okay liquor sale moratorium

Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st) plans to impose a moratorium on the issuance of new package liquor licenses near Northwest Highway and Sayre Avenue after residents expressed support for the proposal at a Feb. 18 community meeting.

"It gives you some options for protecting your interests," O’Connor told the approximately 20 people at the meeting.

In a ballot vote conducted by O’Connor, one resident voted "neutral" and the rest supported the moratorium. There is no existing package liquor store on Northwest Highway in Norwood Park.

The moratorium is designed to prevent the 7-Eleven convenience store at 6200 N. Sayre Ave. from applying again for a package liquor license. The store sought a liquor license in 2007 and 2013, but each time store officials withdrew their application due to community opposition.

One man said that residents want a solution that will ensure that the issue of a liquor license for 7-Eleven will not recur.

Former alderman Brian Doherty imposed a moratorium on new licenses for package liquor and taverns on the west side of Northwest Highway between Harlem Avenue and Nagle Avenue after a prohibition on the sale of alcohol was lifted in 2006 in two precincts in the Norwood Park commercial corridor. Doherty did not impose the moratorium on the east side of Northwest Highway, where 7-Eleven is located, because it has more restrictive zoning.

O’Connor said that the moratorium on the east side would not include a ban on taverns because residents have not raised that issue.

A moratorium must cover a minimum two-block area, and to limit its effect on the east side of the street, the boundaries of the proposed moratorium would include two residential streets. Several residents have said at community meetings that they would support the sale of package liquor at a full-service grocery store that closes by around 9 p.m. but not at a late-night convenience store.

The boundaries of the moratorium area would run along the east side of Northwest Highway in a southeasterly direction from Harlem to Sayre, on both sides of Sayre to Nordica Avenue, and on both sides of Nordica between Sayre and Imlay Street.

In response to residents’ concerns that a future alderman could lift the moratorium without notifying residents, O’Connor said that she would investigate zoning changes which would prohibit the issuance of licenses for package liquor.

The 7-Eleven site, which is zoned B3-1, would have to be rezoned from a business classification to a residential classification to prohibit all package liquor sales. Package liquor is permitted as an accessory use for a store under B3-1, and with the issuance of a special use by the Zoning Board of Appeals, liquor stores that generate most of their revenue from the sale of alcohol and taverns are allowed.

Chicago liquor commissioner Gregory Steadman told residents that moratoriums generally do not affect restaurants and if a moratorium is lifted, for instance to allow a business that is agreeable to residents, it cannot be re-imposed in that area for at least one year. One resident expressed concern that the moratorium would prohibit a gourmet wine store from opening.

While moratoriums do not affect existing liquor licenses, additional restrictions come into play when an owner tries to transfer a type of liquor license that is covered under the moratorium, Steadman said. In some instances a liquor store owner may have to have to conduct a petition drive in which 51 percent of registered voters who live within 500 feet of the premises agree to the license transfer, he said.

Steadman said that the community is fortunate that 7-Eleven withdrew its application for a liquor license last November because national chains often have the resources to litigate the matter. "In this case, 7-Eleven voluntarily withdrew, and I’ll be honest, that doesn’t happen often," he said. "I’m battling Walgreens all over the city."