Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Council stalls discussion on liquor laws

The Evanston City Council approved the city’s largest tax-increment financing district in a unanimous vote Monday night.

Aldermen also voted to hold discussion about new liquor regulations that would increase liquor-related fines or ban anyone younger than 21 from certain bars after midnight if not accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The TIF, located in west Evanston, will allocate money for infrastructure meant to encourage development in the area.

In declaring a TIF district, aldermen agree to grant money for sidewalks, sewers and other improvements and freeze property taxes at their current levels for the next 23 years. If developers build within the area, property values could rise, brining more tax revenues into the city to offset the original costs.

The TIF, Evanston’s sixth, covers part of the Fifth and Second wards, including the stores at Church Street and Dodge Avenue and industrial areas along Hartrey Avenue and along Church. Although no citizens spoke against the TIF in the meetings, some residents in the district had said development could break apart minority neighborhoods.

“I’d like to commend the council for passing the TIF measure,” Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) said.

The City Council decided to hold off proposed changes to the city’s liquor laws after Evanston’s Liquor Control Review Board recommended an increase in fines for underage drinking and possession of fake identifications.

“We thought if we raised those fees we’d probably send a message that we’re very serious about what we’re doing, and the restaurants will know that they’ll have to pay if they violate the law,” said Mayor Lorraine H. Morton, who is also the city liquor commissioner.

Minimum fines would have risen to $500, up from $200, for possession of fake IDs.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), who originally proposed the midnight-deadline ordinance, supported raising the fines but said they might be ineffective because the city collects only about 60 percent of them.

That number is about what would be expected from any collection agency, said city Director of Management and Budget Patrick Casey.

Ald. Cheryl Wollin (1st) said one problem with the midnight-deadline ordinance is it only applied to bars with class B1 liquor licenses. These bars include Prairie Moon at 1502 Sherman Ave., The Keg of Evanston at 810 Grove St., Tommy Nevin’s Pub & Restaurant at 1450 Sherman Ave., and Bill’s Blues at 1029 Davis St. This fails to acknowledge that underage drinking can occur in many restaurants, including Las Palmas, 817 University Place, where 17 students were arrested last weekend, Wollin said.

Rainey cited an entry from Northwestern’s Associated Student Government Restaurant Guide online, which advised readers that Las Palmas “serves margaritas to minors.”

Rainey said she cannot imagine a legitimate reason for persons under 18 to enter restaurants serving alcohol after midnight.

“I don’t believe any one of you would be taking your mom and dad to the Keg for dinner,” Rainey said. “And I don’t think we’re going to destroy the industry as we know it.”

Bar owners said the original ordinance unfairly targeted certain bars.

“It would put me at an unfair disadvantage with some of the other establishments in downtown Evanston,” Nevin’s owner Steve Cin said.

Three NU students spoke at the meeting urging aldermen to support fines instead of the midnight deadline. About five NU students attended the meeting.

Interfraternity Council Risk Management chair Eric Metelka said the original ordinance would not affect parties in Greek houses, but stressed that removing minors from bars by midnight would only move parties into apartments and neighborhoods.

“Bars are where we know we can be safe,” said Metelka, a Weinberg junior. “We can regulate them, we can have people watching.”

Jean-Baptiste said imposing a ban on those under 21 in certain bars would prove impossible to enforce anyway.

Morton said the proposed changes ignore the fact that the liquor law changes originally were proposed after a fatal shooting at The Keg on June 19.

“(The shooting) had absolutely nothing to do with underage or overage drinking,” Morton said. “That incident that happened there, it could have happened anywhere in the City of Evanston.”

Reach Lee S. Ettleman at [email protected].

Reach Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected].

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Council stalls discussion on liquor laws