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Alderman seeks to stop BYOB at businesses in dry precincts

Ald. Deborah Graham (29th)  |  RolSpencer-Bibbs~For Sun-Times Media

Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) | Roland Spencer-Bibbs~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 5, 2013 6:31AM

Chicago businesses located in precincts voted dry — now 12 percent of the city — would be prohibited from allowing their patrons to consume alcohol, even if they bring in the booze themselves, thanks to a controversial crackdown advanced Thursday.

The City Council’s Committee on Public Safety reluctantly approved the ordinance at the behest of West Side Ald. Deborah Graham (29th). She was responding to constituents concerned about the “intentions” of a banquet hall that was coming to a precinct they had taken pains to vote dry.

A precinct can be voted dry if 25 percent of registered voters sign petitions to put the question on the ballot and a majority of voters casting ballots in the next election approve the referendum.

“To ensure that they didn’t have patrons falling out of this particular establishment drunk from a precinct that had been voted dry, this was adding protection to a community that had concerns for that,” Graham said Thursday. “It’s not to hinder businesses. It is addressing their concerns. They voted it dry and they don’t want alcohol there.”

Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) accused Graham of going too far and potentially putting catering places out of business.

“Do we want to just make this in the 29th Ward? Because I don’t want it in my ward,” Cochran said.

Graham replied, “OK, well, let’s do that. That’s fine. I can take that friendly amendment.”

The Law Department subsequently informed Graham that the crackdown on BYOB — bring your own bottle — would have to be imposed in all Chicago precincts voted dry or not at all.

The citywide crackdown was then approved over the objections of several other aldermen.

“So the correction you’re trying to do in your ward will be imposed upon the city?” said Ald. Carrie Austin (34th). “I just had a grand opening at a hair salon and they served champagne. That’s not allowed?”

Local Liquor Control Commissioner Greg Steadman replied, “If the salon is located in a dry precinct, then this ordinance would prohibit the customers from bringing in alcohol to the salon.”

Northwest Side Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) echoed Austin’s concerns.

“In my ward, there’s a few barber shops, Italian-owned, that have some wine in there sometimes for their Italian patrons,” said Sposato, an Italian American.

“When you say ‘provide,’ do you mean, ‘sell’ or do you mean ‘provide?’ If Vito has a gallon of wine there and he says, ‘Come on, Mario, have a glass of wine,’ he’s breaking the law [even] if he’s not selling? These guys are hanger-arounders at some of my barber shops in my ward,” Sposato said.

Steadman replied, “He’s actually in violation of state law. State law . . . prohibits any business from giving away alcohol for free to patrons for any type of commercial purpose.”

That prompted Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) to ask, “Who regulates BYOB?”

Steadman told the alderman it’s the city, not the state. But he said, “The only place we do it in Chicago is in sidewalk cafes. There is a rule and regulation . . . that you can’t bring alcohol into a sidewalk cafe. But other than that, there is no other. This would be the first ordinance that I’m ever aware of that would regulate BYOB in any manner.”


Twitter: @fspielman

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