Moratorium proposed on new liquor licenses in 45th ward


New licenses for packaged liquor goods would be prohibited in almost all commercial areas of the 45th Ward under a liquor moratorium ordinance proposed by Alderman John Arena.

Implementing a moratorium is a tool which aldermen can use to prevent a concentration of liquor stores in their ward. Moratoriums also are used to restrict the number of taverns in a ward but generally do not affect the ability of restaurants to obtain a liquor license.

Few liquor moratoriums have been implemented in the 45th Ward, and most of the existing ones are in areas that are becoming part of the ward under the remapping, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said.

Under a moratorium, existing packaged liquor licenses remain valid, but it becomes more difficult to transfer a license unless the new owner is a family member. In some instances, more than half of registered voters living within 500 feet of an establishment must sign a petition in support of a license transfer.

“We would also consider lifting the moratorium for an owner who is transferring a license to a responsible operator,” Brugh said in an e-mail message. “We would not be able to lift the moratorium for one year from the date of implementation, and we would not be able to reinstate it for one year after lifting it.

“The point of the moratorium is not to prevent any new package goods sellers. It is to give the community more control over sellers so we can ensure we have responsible operators who are sensitive and responsive to the community’s concerns.”

The moratorium would not be imposed on Milwaukee Avenue between Catalpa Avenue south and Peterson Avenue. An application for a special use that would allow a “higher end” liquor store to open at 5636 N. Milwaukee Ave. is being filed with the Zoning Board of Appeals, Brugh said.

At a recent community meeting, residents expressed support for delaying implementation of a moratorium so that the owner of the store could apply for a liquor license, Brugh said. The company has other liquor establishments in the city and has a clean track record, he said.

An application for a package goods license also is pending for a convenience store that will re-open at 5530 N. Milwaukee Ave. The operator is seeking to obtain a new liquor license instead of having the previous owner’s license transferred to the new corporation.

The application was held up for months because a day care center opened on the same block since the previous store owner had been issued a liquor license. New liquor licenses cannot be issued to establishments that are less than 100 feet from a day care center, school, library, church or hospital.

A wall in the store recently was moved several feet so that the space being leased by the convenience store is now slightly more than 100 feet from Care-A-Lot Child Care, 5522 N. Milwaukee Ave. The store is one of several tenants in Skil Plaza.

Arena’s proposed ordinance breaks the ward’s commercial areas into about 80 subsections so that if a moratorium were to be lifted, it could be done so that only a small area would be affected. A moratorium must cover a minimum 2-block area.

The packaged goods moratorium would affect both liquor stores and businesses such as grocery stores where liquor sales are incidental to the main revenue source. In some areas of the ward, the zoning does not allow a liquor store or a tavern.

Brugh said that a moratorium on tavern licenses is not under consideration for the ward but that it might be considered in the future.