Two restaurants planned for Naperville’s Block 59 put pressure on the Liquor Commission to increase pour limits

Rendering of Ruth's Chris Steak House, one restaurant planned for the Block 59 development, but may back out if alcohol pour limits are not increased
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Two restaurants are slated to join a new business district in Naperville, but local restrictions on alcohol pours are causing a holdup in the plans.

Increased pour limits for planned Block 59 restaurants

Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Yard House have signed leases for Block 59, a redevelopment of Heritage Square at the northeast corner of Aurora Avenue and Route 59. The project is planned for completion in 2025.

The two chain restaurants seek increased pour limits for alcoholic drinks on their menu. Ruth’s Chris 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 limitation was held, according to Andrew Balzer, a representative from Brixmor Property Group who spoke at Thursday’s Liquor Commission meeting.

Other planned stores for the development like Stan’s Donuts and Shake Shack would likely terminate leases in the pour limit increases were not approved, which could jeopardize Block 59.

“Creative solution” for Block 59 pour limits

Mayor Scott Wehrli, who serves as the leader of Naperville’s Liquor Commission, was open to a “creative” solution. Any approved ordinance will apply to all establishments with a Class B liquor license in the city.

“One of the things I’ve also seen over the years is if we do something for one restaurant or licensee, all of them want the same thing,” said Wehrli. “So there has been some precedent in that if we allow a change to be made, it is across the classification.”

Commissioner Ray McGury brought up safety issues with increasing pour limits for beer and cider, citing concerns over what type of beer is in a typical “Half-Yard.”

Balzer said the large beer glass is usually filled with a Miller Light or Coors Light. The Brixmor representative said a “Half-Yard” accounts for 3% of weekday sales and 6% of weeknight sales at the restaurant’s Lombard location.

Commissioner Kelly Douglas said Brixmor’s approach to the issue seemed “rushed.”

“I recognize that you’re now coming up on a deadline that seems like it should have been anticipated, sounds like it wasn’t,” said Douglas. “And I feel like we’re scrambling here a little bit.”

Amidst concerns, President of the Naperville Development Partnership Christine Jeffries joined the conversation. She complimented the City of Naperville’s Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training certification (BASSET).

“I think we can trust that the training you’re getting here in Naperville, whether it’s somebody ordering two 16-ounce pints of beer or the 32-ounce, that our trained servers are responsible,” said Jeffries.

Motions for adjusted beer and cider limits

After discussions, commissioners did not have an issue with increased wine pours, just the beer and cider limits.

Former Mayor Steve Chirico, who now serves as a liquor commissioner, motioned for the desired increase to nine ounces for wine pours. The recommendation was unanimously approved by the commission.

Chirico then called for a 32-ounce limit for beer and cider, while restricting restaurants to only serve the order with draft beers and limit to one-per-customer.

The motion passed 3-2. Commissioners Ray McGury and Kelly Douglas voted against the proposal.

The recommendation will go to the Naperville City Council for consideration at a future meeting.

Photo courtesy: Brixmor Property Group

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