Binny’s Beverage Depot will seek amendments to Evanston’s liquor code next week to permit it to operate an event space inside its proposed Chicago Avenue store.

The proposal is drawing fire from at least one other liquor store owner in town. Sandeep Ghaey of Vinic Wine Co. at 1509 Chicago Ave. sent an email to his customers today urging them to write the city’s Liquor Control Review Board, urging it to reject the changes Binny’s is seeking.

Walter Fornek of Binny’s told city staff that the proposed “Grand Cru Event Room” would occupy about 900 square feet in the roughly 20,000 square foot former Whole Foods Market at 1111 Chicago Ave.

Grand Cru is a term that some beer, wine, liquor and chocolate producers uses to designate high quality products.

Fornek says the space would bring together “lecturers and luminaries from the world of wine, spirits and craft beer” and “serve as a public square of sorts — an event venue, fund-raising vehicle for Evanston-based civic and charity groups, a community gathering spot for Evanstonians and a way of delivering greater value to our new neighbors and customers.”

Vinic owner Ghaey told his customers, “We are not against any form of competition coming to Evanston.”

“We are, however, against them getting unfair unrestrictive licensing and variances,” Ghaey added.

Evanston currently has about 32 different liquor license classifications, many of which were developed at the request of business owners seeking to bring a different business model to the sale of liquor in the city.

For example, in 2013, Vinic and another shop, Wine Goddess, won city approval to allow limited sale of wine by the glass in their retail stores.

Perhaps more to the point for residents concerned about the city’s tax revenue, the Class K license that city staff is proposing to amend for Binny’s now is limited to stores of 5,000 square feet and carries a first year license fee of $5,000.

The first-year license fee for large supermarkets that sell liquor ranges up to $40,000.

The liquor board agenda item for the Binny’s request doesn’t mention any change to the Class K license fee.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Thanks for the write up
    Bill, thanks for the write up. Its always amazing how closely you have a pulse on whats going on in the City. We are asking people to write the Liquor board to say they wouldn’t want a variance granted. We think that it wouldn’t have been unreasonable that the largest retailer in the state, who had said they’ve been coveting an evanston location and had seriously looked at the same spot ten years ago, would have had time to read the licensing. That being said you make a good point that the Grocery stores F-1 License is as close a license to their need as is available and the costs they are seeking are a lot lower, so they are avoiding paying the costs associated with doing business here in Evanston, But grocery stores share the responsibility of providing groceries to our community, something the proposed Binny’s wont have to do.

    But we also feel there would be a mis-application of the Class K license for small wine boutiques, that restricts alcohol to 2% of the floor space, which doesn’t fit the product mix of any existing Binny’s. And the most appropriate License is the Class E license for Full Liquor store, which is what Evanston First Liquors and World Market have. That license restricts Full Liquor stores to the Downtown corridor, so any variance on another license would help them skirt this restriction, that existing Class E license holders have had to abide, which in turn has costs and restrictions associated with being in the downtown corridor.

    If Binny’s seeks another location in the downtown corridor and applies for the Class E license as written we will not complain. If they apply for a Class K license, as writte, and go outside the downtown corridor but abide the 5,000 foot maximum we wouldn’t stand in opposition. You brought up that there have been changes before, but that is when it is agreeable to all license holders, in fact there were times when we could not come to terms with the old wine styles, and the wine goddess about changes to the license and forewent them. Thanks for an opportunity to shine a light on this topic, I know that there are a lot of pressing issues in Evanston that deserve everyone’s attention and this is, in comparison, frivolous; but its important to us.

    1. Seriously?
      What seems to be lost in Sandeep’s comments is that the city should be run for the benefit of the citizens, rather than shielding existing business owners from competition. You suggest that new license types should be introduced only ” when it is agreeable to all license holders,” i.e., existing business should have veto power over new business setting up shop. How about we ask instead how granting a license will affect the people of Evanston? The answer is not obvious, and factors that matter include impact on revenue through taxes and license fees, increased retail offerings for Evanstonians, and also possible nuisances. In contrast, granting blocking rights to competitors has no place in this discussion.

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