Restrictions that prevent bars, liquor stores or restaurants that serve alcohol from opening near churches, schools or hospitals may soon be a thing of the past in Elgin.
The Elgin City Council, acting its role as the city’s Liquor Control Commission, unanimously agreed Wednesday to amend its liquor code to remove provisions included in the state’s Liquor Control Act of 1934.
The state recently modified the statute, which prohibited businesses from obtaining a liquor license if they were within 100 feet of a school, church, or some other facilities, Elgin Corporate Counsel Bill Cogley told the commission. Under the change, it will be up to the municipality to decide the type of restrictions it wants to have in place an places that serve alcohol, he said.
Previously, the only way a business could get around the restriction was to obtain an exemption from the General Assembly that had to be signed by the governor.
“There is a lot more flexibility (with the change), and that can be seen as progress in this area,” Cogley said.
Commission members can still refuse to grant a liquor license “as long as you have a rational basis,” Cogley said. The city already caps the number of liquor licenses it issues, he said.
“This is a great thing,” Councilman Terry Gavin said. “It sounds like we have 100 percent discretion.”
“It makes it easier on us, too,” Mayor Dave Kaptain said.
Cogley said an ordinance amending the liquor code to remove the distance regulations will be presented to the Elgin City Council at its Sept. 26 meeting. It would go into effect upon approval.
The change should be a good thing for downtown Elgin, Downtown Neighborhood Association Executive Director Jennifer Fukala said Thursday.
A trend for religious organizations has been moving into nontraditional building spaces, and the restrictions can pose issues for businesses such as bars, restaurants, grocery stores and event and entertainment venues, which were prevented from opening within 100 feet of them, she said.
“It is important to understand that when competing with other communities for businesses that we give consideration to any barriers that may no longer be in the best interest of our community,” Fukala said.
“Elgin also has a strong tradition as a community of faith, so it is important to ensure that businesses selling liquor within our downtown are good neighbors to them as well.”
The Chicago Tribune contributed.