Proposed liquor license for Welsh-Ryan draws heavy criticism from residents


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) speaks at a city council meeting. Revelle said on Monday that she thinks any alterations to the liquor code are premature in light of Northwestern’s proposed zoning changes.

Catherine Buchaniec, Reporter

Residents voiced concerns during Monday’s council meeting regarding a potential alteration to the city’s liquor code, which would create a new class of liquor license. This change would pave the way for the sale of alcoholic beverage sales at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The agenda item was previously held at the June 10 council meeting. On Monday, the proposal drew heavy criticism from residents and no public commenters supported the proposal. However, before the council was to vote, Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) introduced a motion to table both the debate and vote until a future date. The motion passed 6-3.

Northwestern currently operates with an R liquor license, which does allow the sale of alcohol throughout the University area but not at sporting events. Supported by Mayor Steve Hagerty and the Liquor Control Review Board, the proposed amendment would not extend to Ryan Field.

Vickie Burke, chair of the Frances Willard House Museum Council, lives half a block from Welsh-Ryan Arena and said that although she supports Northwestern athletics, she thinks altering the liquor code is going in the wrong direction.

“Northwestern has not proven themselves to be respectful to the neighbors like they used to be years ago ⁠— they had students come by after football games and clean up,” Burke said. “They used to be a lot better about the neighborhood.”

While speaking, residents frequently referred to the recent motion from Northwestern to host professional sporting and commercial events at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Resident Mark Rosati said he fears both the zoning and liquor code proposals will dramatically alter the quality of life and negatively affect community safety in Evanston.

“The process has been characterized by lack of transparency and community engagement,” Rosati said. “I’ve seen no compelling arguments that Northwestern should be allowed to host professional commercial events and convert a sports facility into a giant bar.”

Currently, the sale of alcoholic beverages is only permitted inside the Wilson Club at Welsh-Ryan. Access to the Wilson Club is currently limited to fans with Courtside, Loge or Wilson Club tickets, which require a donation of $6,000 or more.

Resident Lynn Trautmann said her property line is 105 feet away from Northwestern’s ⁠— a distance that makes her support the current zoning and liquor rules.

“If I had any other neighbor who had parties 50 times a year and serves beer to 8,000 to 40,000 people, I would call the cops every single time,” Trautmann said.

Revelle agreed with residents in seeing the amendment as premature — Northwestern’s motion to host other events outside of their typical collegiate athletic games goes before the plan commission in August.

“It would make more sense for us to consider this liquor code amendment once we know what’s going to happen with the Welsh-Ryan Arena,” Revelle said.

The date of the liquor ordinance vote is yet to be determined. Pending the approval of the amendment, Northwestern would then have to apply for the new license.

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