Towns Issuing Liquor Licenses Focus on Quality

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin Kmitch Daily Herald Staff Writer

When it comes to approving liquor licenses in DuPage County, those deciding who gets them and who won't say they focus more on the quality of the retailer than the quantity of licenses available.

Many local liquor commissioners - often mayors or village presidents - applauded Wood Dale Mayor Ken Johnson's recent vow not to award any new licenses during the remainder of his term.

Johnson said 30 licenses are more than enough for the city of approximately 13,000 people. Wood Dale actually has 40 licenses, but 10 are temporary or for one-time events.

Local leaders say the numbers of licenses isn't as important as the regulation of license-holders. And having a high number of licenses, area leaders are quick to point out, usually doesn't mean a community is overrun by gin mills.

Lombard, for instance, has 59 active liquor licenses in a village of 44,000 people. Village President Bill Mueller, who also serves as liquor commissioner, has set his own limits on who will get a license.

"Our town is extremely active when it comes to liquor and tobacco regulations," he said. "I, myself, won't issue a license for an establishment with less than 60 percent food sales. And they're all reviewed twice a year before being renewed. If they fail to meet our standards, I won't reissue a license."

Establishments that sell more alcohol than food do exist in Lombard, but they received their original licenses before Mueller's tenure as commissioner, he said.

In Addison, Mayor Larry Hartwig said he's unlikely to approve a liquor license for any new establishments that don't primarily serve food with alcohol as a secondary menu item.

The village has 43 active licenses, of which Hartwig said a majority are restaurants and grocery or liquor stores.

"My philosophy, and I'm sure my liquor advisory commission would agree, is that we don't need any (more) taverns in town," Hartwig said. "Being home to an establishment where people can come get hammered and then drive home isn't a reputation we're looking for."

Local alcoholism counselors and recovery experts said the approaches taken by Johnson, Hartwig and other liquor commissioners help make their jobs easier and may even be helping those struggling with alcoholism.

"It's like a dieter who lives in a house that is always serving ice cream. …