Block 59 project up in the air after Naperville City Council pushes vote on beer pour limits

Yard House's "Half-Yard," the 32-ounce beer
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The Naperville City Council approved increased wine pour limits for area restaurants but tabled a vote on beer pour restrictions at its meeting on Tuesday, a move which now leaves a planned business district in jeopardy.

Ruth’s Chris, Yard House need alterations to the Naperville Municipal Code

The discussion was sparked by two restaurants planned for Block 59, a redevelopment of Heritage Square at the northeast corner of Route 59 and Aurora Avenue. Ruth’s Chris Steak House serves nine-ounce glasses of wine, while Yard House has a drink on its menu called the “Half-Yard,” a 32-ounce beer.

Naperville Municipal Code requires the maximum serving size to be 6 ounces for wine and 24 ounces for beer and cider.

Both restaurants would cancel their leases if the limitations were held, according to Andrew Balzer, a representative from Brixmor Property Group.

Naperville’s Liquor Commission gave a favorable recommendation for both changes at its Feb. 8 meeting but included stipulations for the beer limits. They called for a 32-ounce limit to be served only with draft beer and cider, and a cap of one-per-customer.

A new ordinance, if passed, would apply to every establishment with a Class B liquor license in the city.

Public safety concerns with increased beer pour limits

During Tuesday’s city council meeting, Councilman Ian Holzhauer said he was a “hard-no” on the proposal to increase beer pour limits.

“I think what we’re talking about is allowing the service of a quart of beer to an individual,” said Holzhauer. “That seems pretty extreme to me. And then to remove the one-per-person limit seems totally inconsistent with our reputation as the best community in America to raise a family, putting public safety first.”

Councilman Josh McBroom asked Naperville Police Chief Jason Arres if there was any link between the larger beer pours and crime in neighboring communities with Yard House locations. The establishment has 88 restaurants nationwide, with Illinois locations in Lombard and Glenview.

“There (haven’t) been claims of that type of an uptick,” said Arres. “I would mention on the back side, if there was an issue of over-serving or DUIs and we linked it back to the establishment, there (are) ways to hold them accountable on the back end through us working together with the Liquor Commission.”

Councilman Patrick Kelly said he wanted to be “cautious” before approving any limit increases.

“My concern is less about those two specific operators and more about the fact that we’re talking about changing the entire city’s regulations on this for the sake of two restaurants that don’t even exist yet in town.”

Councilman Nate Wilson supported the beer limits ordinance as initially proposed.

“If you ordered two of the 32-ounce as opposed to three 24-ounce, in terms of ounces, you’d be over the 64,” said Wilson. “Same thing with the IPA(s), which have a higher alcohol content as opposed to a Coors Light or Bud Light.”

Dais brings forth a series of motions on alcohol limits

Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli held several votes on proposed ordinances, starting with the increased wine pour limits, which the dais unanimously approved.

The council voted 2-7 against the beer limit ordinance as initially proposed, with Councilman Wilson and Josh McBroom voting in favor.

Councilman Kelly brought forward a new motion. In addition to the initially proposed standards, the councilman suggested capping any beers or ciders in a 32-ounce glass at 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and cutting off service of any such drinks at 10 p.m.

The dais voted 5-4 in favor of Kelly’s proposed ordinance. Wehrli then motioned for another vote on Kelly’s proposal but changed the time provision to two hours prior to closing time. The mayor was the only member of the dais to support this idea.

Balzer pleaded with the council to remove the 5% ABV limit, saying the 32-ounce drink with any beer or cider was important to Yardhouse “from a brand standpoint.” The suggestion saw no support from the dais.

Kelly suggested Yard House representatives speak with Brixmor ahead of the next council meeting.

“If (Brixmor) can get some direct feedback from that potential tenant and give us some better information and have a better discussion in two weeks, we could reconsider that part of the question,” said Kelly.

The city council will revisit the beer pour limits ordinance at its next meeting.

Photo courtesy: Yard House

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