New ordinance changes little for bar businesses

Matt Presser

A couple of weekends have passed since Evanston’s new alcohol ordinance went into effect, but little has changed, local bar owners said.

The ordinance, passed by Evanston City Council on Oct. 10, bans anyone under 21 from certain bars after midnight unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The ordinance also raised the minimum fines for alcohol-related offenses from $200 to $500.

Rohit Sahajpal, the owner of Tommy Nevin’s Pub & Restaurant, 1450 Sherman Ave., said the ordinance only changes fundraisers and private events that are held at his bar.

“In terms of overall business, it’s not something that’s going to affect us,” Sahajpal said. “The only thing that this really affects is, unfortunately, now fundraisers that are held by Northwestern students are limited in the times they can come in – All these parties of kids trying to do really good things, they’re limited because these kids have to be out of here by midnight.”

The City Council is evaluating whether to make exceptions to the ordinance, allowing people younger than 21 to attend private and fundraising events at bars after midnight.

Paul White, co-owner of Prairie Moon, 1502 Sherman Ave., said the only revenue source the ordinance potentially impacts is his bar’s private-party income.

“All it does is reiterate what’s already in effect as a state law,” White said. “It hasn’t changed anything, except for being a detriment to the private event business because we weren’t allowing 18- to 21-year-olds in here in the first place.”

White insisted the new ordinance incorrectly identifies the source of the problem.

“If the idea is to keep minors out of bars, it’s not the 18-year-olds that identify themselves as 18-year-olds that are the problem,” White said. “It’s minors with fake identification. And this ordinance doesn’t address that unless they’re caught. And if they’re caught, then they were breaking a law anyway.”

Aside from Prairie Moon and Tommy Nevin’s, the other affected establishments include the 1800 Club, 1800 Sherman Ave.; Bill’s Blues, 1029 Davis St.; and The Keg of Evanston, 810 Grove St.

In the meantime, Weinberg junior Tiffanie Wong said something more needs to be done to achieve the ordinance’s goal.

“As far as I understand from the articles that I’ve been reading in The Daily, the purpose of the new ordinance is to curb underage drinking,” Wong said. “But the fact of the matter is if underage students want to drink, they’ll find a way to do so, even if it means that they can’t go to Evanston bars to do it.”

Sahajpal said trying to curtail underage drinking is a good idea, but the way the city is working to do so may not be the most effective means.

“The intentions of the ordinance are sound,” he said. “Underage drinking is something that the city has to get behind and attempt to stop. I think that the idea behind this is good, (but) I think that the execution of it doesn’t really make sense. Once anyone leaves here, they can go to any 2 a.m. or 1 a.m. bars because those bars aren’t affected. The execution of it, I don’t know if it’s going to work or not. Time will tell.”

Reach Matt Presser at [email protected]