I sponsored a community meeting last Wednesday (June 22nd) at the Rogers Park Library on a proposal to allow the owner of Rogers Park Fine Wine and Spirits, 6741 N. Clark (at Columbia), to apply for a license that will permit him to expand his business.
Rogers Park Fine Wine and Spirits specializes in fine wines, craft and imported beers and spirits. The owner, Henry Younan, proposes to expand his business into an adjacent storefront. In order to do so, he must obtain a license from the City of Chicago to sell packaged liquor at the new address.
Before he can apply for the license, however, the City Council must adopt an ordinance lifting a moratorium on new packaged liquor licenses. The moratorium currently exists on both sides of Clark Street from Wallen to Pratt. If the City Council were to lift the moratorium, it could not be reinstated for one year.
Twenty community residents attended the June 22nd meeting and most supported lifting the moratorium to allow for the expansion. In addition, my office received 75 e-mails on the proposal, of which 67 supported the expansion and only eight opposed.
Accordingly, I have decided to support the proposal.
Mr. Younan has owned the business since 1992 and over the years eliminated cheap wines and liquor from his inventory and now carries primarily fine wines, craft bears and quality spirits. He renovated the interior of the store on several occasions and in 2006 installed new canopies on the exterior of his business and removed the metal gate burglar bars.
Over the years, he has developed a loyal customer base of neighborhood residents and people from other city neighborhoods and suburbs who purchase his products and rely on his extensive knowledge of wines and beers. The reviews of his business on Yelp.com, an online community dedicated to reviews of local businesses, are nearly all strongly positive. To read the reviews, click here.
As I note above, the majority of residents who attended the community meeting, and the overwhelming majority of individuals who shared their views with me via e-mail, were strongly in support of Mr. Younan’s expansion plans. Many complimented his service and the quality of his merchandise.
Mr. Younan’s store represents the kind of business we want in our neighborhood. Expanding his business into the adjacent storefront will enable Mr. Younan to increase the number of products he carries and help ensure the success of his enterprise.
A few people expressed concern with allowing an expansion of a liquor store in an area of the ward that has had its public safety issues. I understand their concerns, but Mr. Younan’s store is not a typical packaged goods liquor store. The unique high-quality products he specializes in and the type of business he operates can only improve our neighborhood.
Others agreed that Mr. Younan is a good businessman, but expressed concern that lifting the moratorium on the issuance of packaged liquor licenses on that portion of Clark Street could open the door to new liquor stores that may be less well-run.
It is true that once a moratorium on packaged liquor stores is lifted, it cannot be reinstated for one year. But it also should be noted that lifting a moratorium does not automatically entitle an applicant to a liquor license; it simply gives the applicant the right to apply for a license. He or she still must satisfy the City’s criteria for a liquor license and the application is subject to the final approval of the City’s Liquor Control Commissioner.
Each license application is decided on its own merits and giving Mr. Younan the right to expand an existingpackaged liquor establishment does not necessarily mean that the Liquor Control Commissioner would issue a license for a new packaged goods store.
For these reasons, I support Mr. Younan’s request and will introduce an ordinance lifting the moratorium. The matter will be referred to the City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection, which will probably hold a hearing on the matter in July.
Barring any unforeseen developments, the City Council at its end of July meeting will likely adopt the ordinance lifting the moratorium, thus allowing Mr. Younan to apply for the license. The Mayor’s Liquor Commissioner will take several months to consider the application, and assuming Mr. Younan passes his scrutiny, the Commissioner will issue him his new license by late fall.
As I indicated above, the moratorium must remain lifted for one year before it can be reinstated. At the expiration of the one-year period, I plan to introduce an ordinance reinstating the moratorium.
If you have any questions or further comments, please reply to this e-mail or call my office at 773-338-5796.