Champaign considers limitation on liquor sales at bars

By Liam Rinehart

In a nonbinding vote on Tuesday, Champaign City Council shot down legislation to limit the amount of alcohol a patron could buy at a bar. The legislation will be looked at during a future meeting.

The prompt for limits on the amount of alcohol served to one person was brought about by concerns from the University and the police over “wine night activity.”

Sgt. Scott Friedlein presented the findings of the Liquor Advisory Commission. Ultimately, the commission was hoping to address concerns over excessive intoxication, lack of routine contact between servers and patrons at bars and definition discrepancies within the state’s own liquor laws. The worries regarding the interaction between servers and patrons stemmed from concerns that servers wouldn’t know when someone had too much to drink.

After mulling over the proposed legislation for sometime, Councilman Vic McIntosh was worried that campus bars were having an overwhelming influence on the policy of the city council.

“We’re letting the bars on campus set our ordinances,” he said.

Councilwoman Deborah Feinen echoed similar thoughts, saying legislation put in place to regulate campus bars should not negatively affect the off campus Champaign bars that don’t frequently experience the listed concerns.

Despite not getting enough votes in an initial straw poll, Mayor Gerald Schweighart and others hoped the sale of 1.5 liter bottles of wine at bars could be made illegal.

“The wine night is one thing that causes a lot of problems,” Schweighart said.

The council also addressed for some time the various perceived problems in the Happy Hour legislation, as well as concerns brought up by the Liquor Advisory Commission regarding the sale of distilled alcohol in quantities greater than 750 mL in bars, the distribution of shots by employees versus “shot girls” and the number of beers allowed to be sold per bucket. A straw poll was taken on the matters, but none of the decisions were binding, as two councilmembers were not present.

Mayor Gerald Schweighart noted that the council could deal with all of the campus bar problems simply by raising the entry age to 21.

At the same meeting, the council took steps to establish a new class of liquor licenses specifically for breweries and wineries.

“These issues have been rattling around for around two years,” Deputy Liquor Commissioner Teri Legner said about the proposed laws.

The proposed addition was in response to a petition by Chris Knight, who wants to build a brewery in downtown Champaign. If granted a new liquor license, the brewery will be located on 111 N. Market St., just one block west of the Amtrak Station. At maximum capacity, Knight estimates that it will bring in around $4 million per year.

A major sticking point was a portion of the proposal which would require the license holder to have a minimum of 60 percent of their total liquor sales in their own product. This 60/40 split, as it was called, was an addition by the Liquor Advisory Commission. It was chastised because many felt that this category of liquor license would allow for the establishment of a brewery pub instead of just a brewery.

“This middle ground just feels false,” said Councilwoman Marci Dodds.

Councilmember Vic McIntosh agreed with Dodds’ assestment.

“The uncomfortable thing with me is the 60/40,” he said.

Dodds also wondered why the license would be limited from the campus area.

“If it’s not supposed to be a bar why not campus?” said Dodds.