Petition clears way for more liquor businesses


A successful petition drive to lift a ban on the sale of alcohol in a portion of the Norwood Park commercial corridor opens the door for additional liquor establishments in the 6060 Plaza shopping center on Northwest Highway.

The section of the center north of Nettleton Avenue, which dead-ends at the plaza, has been "wet" for several years. That section has two liquor establishments, Mo Dailey’s Pub, 6070 N. Northwest Hwy., and Norwood Park Wine and Spirits, 6056 N. Northwest Hwy.

The portion of the center south of Nettleton was "dry" until the City Clerk’s Office in May ruled that a petition to change the status was valid. The ruling cleared the way for the operators of Sapori Napolitano Ristorante and Pizzeria, 6050 N. Northwest Hwy., to apply for a license to serve liquor.

The center is located in the 22nd Precinct of the 41st Ward, and while boundaries of precincts can change every 10 years when wards are redistricted, liquor bans remain unchanged, and that can create split precincts in terms of liquor status.

Liquor bans are usually lifted through a vote after a referendum is placed on a ballot during an election year.

However, a lesser-used section of the Illinois Liquor Control Act allows for a change through a petition when the affected area was annexed from another precinct. It requires two thirds of registered voters in the annexed area to sign a petition to lift the ban, and the change takes effect 30 days later if no valid challenges are filed against the petition.

Alderman Anthony Napolitano’s chief of staff Chris Vittorio said that the owners of Sapori organized the petition drive and received at least 70 percent of the 180 registered voters to sign the petition. The affected area is bounded by Northwest Highway on the south, Nettleton on the west, Neola Avenue on the east and Raven Street/Nassau Avenue on the north.

Nearly all of Downtown Norwood Park was "dry" from the late 1940s through 2006, when residents voted to lift the "dry" status in two precincts. The Norwood Park Chamber of Commerce and Industry led the push for liquor sales in an effort to bring more restaurants to the area.

"It’s just a secondary use for the restaurant, and it’s a good thing (for the community)," Vittorio said of Sapori’s license application.

The wet-dry boundary had run through the middle of the restaurant, but liquor regulations require the entire storefront to be "wet" in order to serve alcohol in both halves of the restaurant, Vittorio said. The serving of liquor in only half of the restaurant would have required a separate entrance and a wall separating the two halves, he said.

Zoning laws and license moratoriums make it difficult to open taverns or liquor stores in the business district, Vittorio said. The 6060 Plaza liquor store, the area’s first in about 70 years, opened after the owner agreed to several restrictions in an effort to create more of a high-end establishment, he said.