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Craft Beer-Only License Plan to be 'Tweaked' to Allow Domestics

By Alisa Hauser | April 3, 2013 10:26am | Updated on April 3, 2013 4:01pm

EAST VILLAGE — Amid Budweiser complaints, a proposed craft beer-only liquor license for a North Side market has been tweaked to allow the sale of domestic brews.

But the local alderman's office said a change allowing domestic beers already was in the works by the time the global beer giant called to gripe about being shut out.

The original no-domestics provision in the proposed liquor license was designed to address the fears of some residents in East Village that allowing booze sales by Garden Gourmet Market, 1130 N. Ashland Ave.could spark trouble in the neighborhood.

Allowing the shop to sell only craft beers — and not domestic beer or cheap wine — as a way to hold down potential alcohol-related problems was considered an unusual approach in Chicago.

A representitive for Budweiser did not return calls, but according to a spokesman for Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), "One of the corporate folks from Anheuser-Busch's government relations department" reached out to the alderman.

"They were concerned they were being singled out and there was a precedent that was going to be set," said Matt Bailey, a spokesman for Moreno.

The complaints from the St. Louis-based brewing company were a "moot point," Bailey said, because the East Village Association, a neighborhood group that worked with Moreno to develop the original plan, "had decided to revise the drafted agreement to reflect craft beer only for single-serving cans."

Neal McKnight, president of the East Village Association, said the change came after concerns "over the language" were expressed by Gregory Steadman, the City of Chicago's liquor control commissioner.

Steadman declined to comment on specifics of the plan.

"It's a pending application. I'm just waiting to see what the community, alderman and applicant agree to do. As long as all the parties are in agreement with the terms, that's OK by me," Steadman said.

Before the plan, which also prohibits the sale of all spirits, malt brews and fortified wines, can be put into place, a liquor moratorium for the area must be lifted.

The request by Moreno to lift the moratorium on Ashland Avenue between Division Street and Ashland Avenue is scheduled to go before a City Council committee Wednesday with a full council vote perhaps as early as April 10.

Once cleared by the Council, the plan must still be OKd by Steadman.

Garden Gourmet Market is owned by Maher Farhan.

At the shop on Tuesday, Farhan's father, Ziad Farhan, said, "If they change it, it's good to have a mix of everything.  ... But if they don't, either way, I am OK with it."

As part of the negotiation with residents, Moreno agreed to lift no more liquor moratoriums in an area that is mostly dry until the end of his term in February 2015.