by Jacqueline Francis
Wednesday, January 24th 2018
A new liquor code could mean new bars, fewer restrictions and even the possibility to ‘sip n shop’. (WCCU)
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCCU) — The City of Champaign is all liquored up.
Per the city’s current liquor code, only 60 Class A liquor licenses can be issued.
Right now, all 60 are taken.
“We’ve had inquiries from people that want to open new establishments and we’ve had to say there’s not a license available,” Deputy Liquor Commissioner Matt Roeschley said.
Roeschley is working to change this by tweaking the liquor code.
“To make sure it fits with the types of businesses that are currently operations and enables people to do the kind of businesses they want,” Roeschley said.
Roeschley said in 2004, the Class A liquor license cap jumped from 46 to 60.
City leaders are now working to raise that number to 75, making five new licenses available every five years.
A number that’s, “proportionate to the growth in the community,” Roeschley said.
Roeschley said there was some pushback because to current bar owners more licenses means more competition.
Meanwhile to others, the more bars the better.
“It might surprise people that I think more competition is a good idea,” The Blind Pig owner Chris Knight, said. “But really if the only way you can flourish is by limiting competition then you’re not doing very well.”
Another change in the proposed code would allow people to take their drink to go.
An open container policy that would apply to designated events in the downtown area.
“During an event like the Friday Night Live, where we have performers out on the streets,” Roeschley said. “[If] people want to watch the musical performance and also have a beverage they could do that in a way that’s legal.”
Sip ‘n’ Shop is another proposed tweak to the liquor code that has many people excited.
It’s exactly as it sounds, the model allows alcohol consumption in the retail sections of specialty grocery stores, food shops, and liquor stores.
Smaller specialty shops, like Cheese & Crackers in Champaign, said this possibility would be big for business.
“Now they can say, ‘I can go to Cheese & Crackers [and] can talk about fish and cheese, and I can enjoy my shopping experience a little bit more,” Cheese & Crackers owner Bart Basi, said.
The Champaign City council will have a final vote on the proposed liquor code in March.
If it passes, Roeschley hopes to implement the open container policy by summer and have additional liquor licenses available in October.