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First Taco Bell to Sell Alcohol Agrees to Have Bouncers

By Alisa Hauser | July 29, 2015 9:48am | Updated on July 29, 2015 9:52am
 A rendering of new Taco Bell, set to open in mid to late August in Wicker Park.
A rendering of new Taco Bell, set to open in mid to late August in Wicker Park.
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Taco Bell Corp.

WICKER PARK — The owner of the nation's first booze-serving Taco Bell has agreed to hire a security guard to watch the door on weekends and to stop selling liquor by midnight when it opens next month.

Restrictions on hours were part of a plan that evolved out of a community group meeting in June where residents expressed concerns about late hour and underage drinking, as well as patrons leaving with open containers of booze.

The plan is expected to be approved by the city Liquor Commissioner Greg Steadman "any day now" according to Bill O'Donaghue, a lawyer for Neil Borkan, a Lincolnshire-based franchisee who owns the Wicker Park Taco Bell along with 34 other stores.

"[Borkan] wanted to cooperate and [he] felt at end of day it is a very reasonable request. It's reviewable after a period of time. The plan can be changed in nine months [or] extended as is," O'Donaghue said.

Once signed off on by Steadman, the "plan of operation" for the new spot at 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave. will be posted online, joining 158 other Chicago business that are required to operate under more restrictive plans of operation.

Alisa Hauser says they'll be selling beer and boozy slushies:

Rob Poetsch, a Taco Bell spokesman said on Tuesday that "all signs point to the restaurant opening in August," with mid-to-late August being a more realistic target than early August.

"Our franchisee is thrilled with the positive feedback from city officials and the Wicker Park Community on this newly designed Taco Bell," Poetsch said.

Leah Root, president of the Wicker Park Committee, which met with Borkan and Poetsch at a public meeting in  June, said her group supports the Taco Bell entry.

"I think they were very cooperative and we worked in tandem with the 1st ward office to come to an agreement," Root said.

Borkan agreed to have a security guard at the door from 9 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday. Alcohol sales will end at 10 p.m. Sunday  through Thursday and midnights on Friday and Saturday.

Food will continue to be sold until midnight during the week and 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Wicker Park Taco Bell will serve food in baskets and the menu will include appetizers, which are not available at any other Taco Bells, Borkan previously said.

The fast food giant's mixed alcohol freezes will be 16-ounces with one shot of rum, vodka or tequila, served in different cups to distinguish them from nonalcoholic drinks. In addition to freezes, draft beer and wine by the glass will also be available.

Alcohol must be consumed on the premises and the staff of about 40 workers will include workers over age 21 who have completed training to serve booze.

When asked if the Wicker Park Taco Bell will pave the way for other Taco Bells serving booze if the new concept goes well, Poetsch said, "We're opening a similar restaurant concept in San Francisco in September that we'll evaluate for other urban markets."

Borkan applied for the incidental liquor license under the name Cantina Chicago LLC on May 6.

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 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. Though Big Star did not have a ground beef taco on its menu for several years, the popular spot recently added a $4 beef picadillo taco with chipotle, raisins, queso fresco, roasted peanuts and cilantro.

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