EDGEWATER — More than 20 years after Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) put a moratorium on new liquor licenses on West Devon between Broadway and Ravenswood due to bad bar behavior and safety concerns, he's trying to get the ban overturned.
O'Connor is working with Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), Ald. Joe Moore (49th), developer Scott Whalen and two business owners who want to open a brewery and taproom in the area.
The business owners, married couple and Loyola grads Alex Drayer and Brittany Groot, said during a standing-room-only community meeting that the safety and well-being of the neighborhood was their top concern.
The land was once part of O'Connor's ward and is directly across the street from Moore's ward, on the north side of Devon Avenue.
Osterman, who oversees the south side of Devon between Broadway and Clark Street where the business at 1221-23 West Devon is proposed, said he's been "sensitive to the unintended consequences" that could arise if the moratorium is lifted. If the moratorium lifts before Whalen gets the go-ahead for construction, for instance, another business may swoop in without community input while the ban is down.
He also said he didn't want to shift police focus away from more pressing crime in the neighborhood.
From left, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), Ald. Joe Moore (49th) and Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) gather to get community feedback during a meeting Tuesday night. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
He said if the City Council agreed to lift the ban — which must then remain lifted for a year — he and the owners would work closely with the Loyola Police Department, as well as the Rogers Park police district, to make sure underage students weren't being served, among other potential problems.
"The place isn't going to be vibrating [from loud music], I'm not concerned about it at all," Whalen said.
If the City Council were to lift the ban, it would take effect 30 days later, and the moratorium would return after a year. At that time, the aldermen said they would impose the ban in two-block increments (which is common now in many wards) along Devon to allow for more mixed-use businesses.
O'Connor cited problems from decades past involving a few bars that were "problematic at best," including the former Connolly's Tavern at 1445 W. Devon Ave.
In 1988, the Chicago Tribune reported the then-owner of Connolly's, Eugene Poirier Sr. and his son Gene, who both lived in the neighborhood, were charged with aggravated battery and ethnic intimidation after a shooting confrontation with a 25-year-old black man.
O'Connor said during the meeting that Connolly's had become a more intrusive "social club" and needed to go, but said he would support allowing "legit restaurants" to obtain an incidental liquor license in order to meet their sales margins.
Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) imposed the liquor moratorium decades ago when some bars were behaving badly on Devon, he said. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Drayer and Groot said they would be careful not to overserve customers, and would plan to "design out crime" in the pub's style as a crime-prevention measure.
"It's not a college bar, it's not a place you go to get sloppy drunk, it's a place you go to learn about beer," Drayer said.
The pub also wouldn't host live music because businesses are required to obtain separate licenses for that, Groot said, but an acoustic guitar player could occasionally play, according to what the city allows under their licensing.
Residents also cited concerns over the bar's close proximity to the 155 Devon CTA bus stop, a route hub frequented by seniors living across the street, and who usually cross over Devon toward the bus stop without using the crosswalk.
Osterman said it was an issue he could "take a look at."
Another concern, voiced by resident Joy Ippolito who lives in an adjacent building, was that an influx of people could cause parking problems, with residents needing to park further from their homes.
Whalen, who also plans to build two residential floors above the brewery, said the four-apartment annex would have four available parking spaces for residents to use.
Osterman said he felt Devon had "the capacity for parking," and after a resident asked if Osterman would ever consider allowing parking garages in residential buildings, like the project for 1313 W. Morse Ave. just approved by Moore, Osterman said he would "begin to look at that."
Osterman said "from a development standpoint," he wanted first to look at options that allowed businesses to have rear parking, like that at Heartland Health Center where the meeting was held.
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