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Moreno Wants To Explore Restrictions on Booze-Selling Taco Bell

By Alisa Hauser | May 28, 2015 8:27am | Updated on May 28, 2015 8:55am
 An under-construction Taco Bell (l.) at 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Ald. Joe Moreno (1st). [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
An under-construction Taco Bell (l.) at 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Ald. Joe Moreno (1st). [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — The nation's first booze-serving Taco Bell could be landing in Wicker Park this summer if a franchisee gets a liquor license, though a local alderman said he would like to see some restrictions and agreements put in place.

"As a resident, I think it's a terrible idea; as an alderman I can't tell them they can't come here and apply to [serve alcohol]," Moreno said during a question-and-answer session after the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce's annual State of the Wards meeting on Wednesday.

In some cases, businesses are required to operate under more restrictive "plans of operation."

A plan of operation would need to be approved by the city's Liquor Commissioner Gregory Steadman.

Alisa Hauser explains what kind of restrictions would be in place:

A plan of operation could prohibit the types of alcohol that will be served, as well as hours, though Moreno did not elaborate further at the chamber meeting, attended by about 60 local business owners at the Goddess and Grocer, 1649 N. Damen Ave.

According to a report by Thrillist, Taco Bell plans on serving frozen drinks — "Twisted Freezes," made with rum and vodka — alongside Corona and one local beer on draft. The freezes would be ordered at a counter and not served bar style.

A spokesman for Taco Bell was not available to comment on potential restrictions at the restaurant, which the company has described as having "new urban design elements."

Leah Root, president of the Wicker Park Committee, said that her group had not discussed a formal opinion but she knew "a lot of residents have expressed concern" over the fast food giant's plan to serve alcohol.

"We think it's great that Moreno wants to have an open forum to get a temperature check on how the neighborhood feels," Root said.

Alisa Hauser says reactions have been mixed in the neighborhood:

Taco Bell's pending liquor license application is scheduled to be discussed at the Wicker Park Committee's monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Wicker Park field house, 1425 N. Damen Ave.

Neil Borkan, a prolific Taco Bell franchisee with 34 stores, will be leading the Wicker Park outpost, which would be the first to serve booze, if the license gets approved.

Borkan applied for the incidental liquor license under the name Cantina Chicago LLC on May 6.   There is a 60-day waiting period for an application to be reviewed, so the earliest that Taco Bell could serve booze would be July 6.

Borkan did not return several calls requesting comment. Borkan's Lincolnshire-based firm, NJB Operations, is looking for workers to staff the Wicker Park eatery, according to its website.

Taco Bell spokesman Rob Poetsch previously said there would be more information about the new concept available closer to the restaurant's opening.

Late Thursday, Poetsch said that Borkan "plans to attend the June 3 meeting and share his plans for the restaurant and answer questions from local residents."

Once open, the fast food restaurant will join a host of taco options already settled into the neighborhood, including Antique Taco, less than one block south at 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave;  Kokopelli, 1324 N. Milwaukee Ave., Authentaco, 1141 N. Ashland Ave; La Pasadita, 1140 N. Ashland Ave. and the forthcoming hybrid eatery BAOCOS.

Taco Bell also sits within a block of Rick Bayless' Xoco, which serves tacos and other Mexican fare at 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave., and a few blocks from Big Star, 1531 N. Damen Ave.

A notice informing passers-by of an incidental liquor license application for Taco Bell, applying under the name Cantina Chicago.  [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Construction inside the location of the future Taco Bell, 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

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