Evanston’s Liquor Control Review Board is expected to vote Friday on whether to repeal the city’s current 6% Liquor Consumption Tax and replace it with a new food and beverage tax.

The board started to consider alternatives to the liquor tax last spring after receiving complaints from liquor license holders that the tax was putting them at a disadvantage in competing with counterparts in nearby towns that don’t impose a liquor tax.

A city staff memo indicates that Evanston is the only one of 20 nearby communities that has a liquor consumption tax, although eight, including Chicago and Skokie, tax the sale of packaged liquor and 17 tax the sale of prepared food and beverages, including liquor.

MunicipalityFood & Beverage Packaged LiquorLiquor Consumption Revenue (in millions)
Arlington Heights31.25%NoneNone$2
Buffalo Grove1%NoneNone$0.8
Chicago10.5%See note 1None$80
Des Plaines1%NoneNone$1.3
Downers Grove1.5%NoneNone$3.4
Highland Park1%1%None$1
Hoffman Estates42%3%None$1.9
Morton Grove1%NoneNone$0.6
Park Ridge1%4%None$1.4
1 – Chicago charges a per gallon tax based on the percentage of alcohol by volume.
2 – Skokie excludes packaged liquor from its food and beverage tax.
3 – Arlington Heights charges an additional 0.75% food and beverage tax on downtown businesses that use the village’s alfresco outdoor dining program.
4 – Hoffman Estates collects both the food and beverage tax and the packaged liquor tax on packaged liquor for a combined rate of 5%

Those taxes are in addition to sales taxes that vary from town to town but amount to 10.25% in Evanston, Chicago and Skokie, 10% in Wilmette and 9.75% in Glenview.

Assistant City Attorney Brian George has suggested that the city could replace the $3 million a year it now receives from the liquor tax by imposing a 1.5% tax on prepared foods and beverages.

Or, he suggested, the city could set the food and beverage tax at 1.25% and impose a 3% tax on packaged liquor sales to bring in the same amount of revenue.

The prepared food and beverage tax would hit grocery stores as well as restaurants. 

Actually adopting any change in the tax scheme will be up to the City Council.

And Ald. Devon Reid (8th) has already expressed some skepticism about the change.

Reid said at a ward meeting in July that he feels the Food and Beverage Tax would unfairly burden cash-strapped residents merely trying to feed their families.

But he said he might support “a reasonable level” of reduction in the liquor tax and some means to “account for some of the lost revenue.” 

Friday’s liquor board will be held at 1 p.m. at the Civic Center.

Desiree Shannon relocated to Evanston in 2022 from Columbus, Ohio. She has a journalism degree from Otterbein College of Ohio. During her undergraduate studies, she completed an internship with the Washington...

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