Champaign won’t swallow Fat Sandwich’s liquor plan

By Stephen Spector

Fat Sandwich Company co-founders Adam Pearlman and Cole Lewko are in a disagreement with the city of Champaign regarding the delivery of liquor.

The sandwich shop, located at 502 E. John St., wants to deliver liquor in addition to their “fat” sandwiches. After stating that they received approval from the city to deliver, the two spent thousands of dollars in advertisements promoting their delivery opportunity, Pearlman said.

Now, they are saying that they have to retract their advertising promises.

“It’s embarrassing when you tell the entire town that you’re going to do something,” Pearlman said. “You spend all this money and now the city decides I can’t and I look stupid.”

In addition to the retailer’s license to sell alcohol, Pearlman and Lewko need supplementary licenses to allow them to deliver it. A caterer’s retail liquor license would permit the delivery of liquor under certain conditions. The complexities of the law can keep a business from obtaining such a license.

“He came in and set-up his restaurant, but he doesn’t understand that liquor is an extremely regulated business,” Mayor Jerry Schweighart said. “He tried to set it up to his standards. We set the definition.”

Before opening their restaurant, Pearlman and Lewko both flirted with the idea of delivering alcohol and subsequently contacted the city in mid-August. Pearlman first contacted Schweighart’s office.

“I talked to the mayor’s office and read through the laws with them,” Pearlman said. “They told me that with the certain licenses I was buying I could deliver alcohol and there would be no problem. I said ‘Are you sure?’ and they said ‘Yes.'”

The day before Fat Sandwich Company opened, Pearlman said he drove to the mayor’s office to pick up the liquor licenses and was approached by the city attorney. The attorney restricted Pearlman’s ability to deliver.

Fat Sandwich Company, which opened Oct. 17, is eligible, in accordance to Champaign’s laws, to obtain a package rider. By definition, Pearlman and Lewko’s sales must be at least 60 percent food and a maximum 40 percent liquor. Of that 40 percent, a maximum 15 percent can be sales generated from delivery. They would not be allowed to deliver after midnight.

Pearlman argued that by personally delivering the alcohol, his business will help limit drunk driving. Transporting alcohol, especially at night, can deter drunk driving rather than having intoxicated individuals get in a car and drive to the liquor store for more.

Both Schweighart and Hall said they plan on sitting down with the Fat Sandwich owners to discuss the situation.

“What they plan on doing is not catering as we define catering,” Assistant City Attorney Laura Hall said. “They are not in a situation to do what they really want to do. But at the same time, we’re not saying ‘you’re out’. Alcohol, in its nature, is very complicated and we can’t make an exception.”