Evanston approves extended bar hours

Evan Hessel

Evanston bars and restaurants will be able to serve alcohol later into the night as a result of a decision by Evanston City Council at Monday night’s meeting.

City Council voted unanimously to approve the creation of a new liquor license that would allow businesses in the downtown area to serve alcohol until 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 3 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Under the old ordinance, bars and restaurants had to end liquor sales at 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday and at 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

More than 50 businesses in the downtown district soon will be able to take advantage of the extended liquor service hours, said Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.

The council also voted Monday to accept a study examining the need for a new recreational center in southeastern Evanston. Mayor Lorraine H. Morton’s tiebreaking vote ended a lengthy debate between those who support building a new community center and those who think such a project is impossible during the current budget crunch.

But Morton voted to accept the results of the survey with the understanding that no city funds or staff labor would be used to investigate the project’s feasibility.

Ald. Arthur Newman (1st) said the city could not pay for such a large-scale project with tax revenue, and selling bonds to cover a new project would be fiscally irresponsible.

Making a new community center for southeastern Evanston a top fiscal priority would be unfair to other areas and would drain the already thin budget, Newman added.

“I think this project is well-meaning, but the community has been misled to think this will ever become a reality,” Newman said.

But Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said the city should allow staff to look for outside grants for a new community center before dismissing it as too expensive.

The survey the council voted to consider was funded by a $250,000 grant secured by Illinois Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) and determined that there is “strong citywide support” for a new community center and basketball facility in southeastern Evanston. The survey, which was conducted by Brailsford & Dunlavey, a Washington, D.C., facilities planning firm, utilized a 1999-2000 community study and interviews with 350 residents of the Eighth and Ninth wards to determine if a new community center was needed.

After determining that about 70 percent of the area’s residents support a new recreational center, Dunlavey’s firm proposed three possible locations and building plans for a new facility. The proposed projects estimated construction costs of about $7 million, $10 million and $15 million. The most expensive proposal included plans for a 37,000-square-foot facility with a swimming pool, six basketball courts and underground parking.

Some community members voiced support for a new recreation center.

“All we ask for and all we want is something nice in our community like you have in yours,” said Charles Loiseau, a resident of southeastern Evanston.

But other southeastern Evanston residents expressed concern that the city cannot afford a new recreational center, especially after last year’s nearly $4 million budget deficit.

“Let’s be realistic,” said Judy Levinson, a southeastern Evanston resident. “Where is the money to build the center coming from? Where will the operating costs come from?”

Homeowners were hit with a 7.2 percent property tax hike this February and cannot afford another increase to fund a new community center, Levinson said.