Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl says she plans to start getting regular reports from local supermarkets about how much of their liquor slips out the door without being paid for.

At a meeting of the city’s Liquor Control Review Board this morning Tisdahl said the city lacks sufficient information now to determine just how serious the theft problem is.

The issue has arisen recently in the debate over establishment of a police outpost at the Dominick’s supermarket on Dempster Street, with some neighbors complaining that the store’s layout makes it more vunerable to thefts.

Police Chief Richard Eddington, who worked with Dominick’s officials to set up the outpost in an entryway to the Dempster Street store, said he’s particularly concerned about students from nearby Evanston Township High School ending up with criminal records as a result of a rash decision to steal liquor.

Eddington says he hopes a greater police presence can help discourage such activity.

But liquor thefts are also a problem at other local markets. For example, just today police reported three liquor thefts Tuesday evening at the Jewel supermarket on Chicago Avenue, all of which led to arrests. None of those arrested were teenagers.

Tisdahl says it’s not clear how often stores report thefts they notice to police, and it’s not clear how much thievery isn’t noticed until the stores inventory their stock.

Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar said that requiring the stores to report how big the discrepancy is between their inventory reports and what they’ve sold is something that’s within the mayor’s power as the city’s liquor commissioner.

“It’s consistent with our power to regulate sales,” Farrar said. “We’re entitled to the information.”

The mayor said that once the city knows whether different stores have different inventory shrinkage problems it will be in a better position to work with the owners on possible redesigns of their sales space or other efforts to control the problem.

“It’s our responsibility as the liquor commission to take a look, see if its a major issue and then discuss it and see what we want to do,” Tisdahl said.

In other business, the board agreed to:

  • Let patrons at the Century Theatre complex downtown take liquor bought in the building’s lounge into some of its theaters when they’re showing PG-13 and R rated movies. Representatives of the theater owner said that’s become a popular feature recently at other theaters in the area and the lack of it has cut into business at the Evanston complex.
  • Let the Chef’s Station restaurant downtown serve mixed drinks to its patrons.
  • Issue a new liquor license to Sodexo for catered events at Northwestern University’s football and basketball venues.

All those changes will require City Council approval.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why just the liquor?

    Why are we just looking at liquor?  Stealing is an issue on many other items and all should be given equal attention. 

  2. I go to both the

    I go to both the Dempster-Dodge Dominicks and the Chicago Ave Jewel all the time.  The liquor depts in Jewel and Dominick's are not designed appropriately. They are not controlling their stock of liquor effectively. They are enabling these thefts. With some changes to physical layout, which would be all less expensive than an Evanston-funded police outpost, they could dramatically curb liquor thefts and monitor underage attempts to buy liquor.

    The liquor depts in these stores need to be separated much more from the store; they need a separate (interior) door, a bottleneck exit with a dedicated cashier at that door. You cant walk in to this section without showing an dID or being obviously old enough. Liquor sales need to be be rung up separately than groceries; you can only but liquor in the liquor dept. Look at how many other stores do this. Woodman's in Kenosha Wisconsin is a good example. 

    They keep cigarettes behind the counter but anyone can grab a bottle of whiskey? That is nuts.

    I realize that this will cost some money and I'm not suggesting that every store in Evanston needs to do this, but obviously these two stores are where the theft and underage buying action is happening.

    1. Dominicks On Greenbay and Liquor

      Maybe 10 years ago the Dominicks on Greenbay had the type of arrangement.  I don't recall if there was a turnstyle or one but there was an enterance into the department and a separate checkout at the end.

      It would not seem that the expense they had would be too great.

  3. Liquor Thefts

    The store's design is enabling liquor thefts! What ever happened to teaching children right from wrong. Why blame a store when its a handful of the customers who can't be trusted! Other parts of Illinois don't have this problem. Why Evanston. Why these locations? Something must be done and it starts with family values.

    1. Family Values?

      You mean that parents & guardians have a role to play in raising their children? Personal responsibility and accountability? Opportunity for those with ambition and who make an effort to work? Sounds like some of the basic principles of our country. Then again, maybe both D65 & D202 school boards and administrators should take notice.

  4. Another great idea from our Mayor to run business out of town!

    The issue of crime here is interesting, now the Mayor blames the business for the theft. Who is she kidding.

    I while back  a manager from another chain not related to Liquor sales told me their Evanston location had the highest theft rate in their system.

    Why not tell the world, theft in your business here is a problem, move to another location.  The food business is  a low profit margin operation, maybe the Mayor is doing the management a favor, once they evaluate their losses they will shut down their operations!

    At the last council meeting one speaker suggested the Dominicks police outpost is already having a negative impact on the neighborhood due to people's perception of crime.

    Blame the business, the city must tell them how to design the stores, why not put everything behind a glass wall with a slot? Is Evanston that much of slum?  The individual business need to decide how to run their operations not the Mayor. 

    The council and the Mayor anti- business attitude, such as the recent idea to charge Land Lords a new inspection fees so they can keep the useless " peeling paint" inspectors employed, is another example of their total lack of how to deal with the reality of Evanston large criminal element.

    They want to punish all the land lords just like the food stores for the large number of criminals that live here! 

    The Mayor and others on the council think landlords want to rent to the criminals, novel idea, the landlords get the type of renters the city of Evanston is attracting.  Maybe the Mayor needs a reality check?

    They don't want to deal with the real issue, how to reduce the criminal population in Evanston!

  5. Unreal

    Here is what scares me, the quote:

    "It's consistent with our power to regulate sales," Farrar said. "We're entitled to the information."

    Power to regulate sales?!  Entitled to information?!

    If you think you have this power, and are entitled to info, then do the right thing – reach out to Jewel corporate and  Dominick's corporate to work with (NOT AGAINST) these businesses to help resolve the problem. 

    I would think that these companies have experienced this in the past and have worked, again with (NOT AGAINST), various cities to resolve these problems.

    The tone of the statements and the stance from the City is not good, and as we all know, is evident of this council's anti business and economic growth stance.  Entitlements for everyone.

    1. Real

      Dan wrote:

      Here is what scares me, the quote:

      "It's consistent with our power to regulate sales," Farrar said. "We're entitled to the information."


      What is so scary?  Certainly the City has the power to regulate alcohol sales…nobody disputes that.  

      As for being 'entitled to the information',  why is that scary?  Enquiring minds want to know, and the City, which has the right to regulate alcohol, certainly has the right to know how it is being distributed.  

      The City and State do not just let anyone distribute alcohol.  If someone wants to sell alcohol – whether at a bar or Winestyles or Jewel or Evanston First – part of the deal is that they will abide by the City's and State of Illinois' regulations, which means actively preventing minors from purchasing alcohol. 

      I also wonder if there is a tax issue here.  Are taxes assessed at the time of sale, or based on inventory?  If, for example, a few bottles of rum fall from the shelf at Evanston First, does that mean that no taxes will be paid on those destroyed items?  If alcohol is lost to 'shrinkage', does that mean that the City is losing money too?

  6. Taxing grocery bags, now theft reports on booze, what next?

    Not long ago, our wise, all-knowing, sage, seers and soothsayers, the royal City Council, debated on an ordinance to tax grocery bags. Then they thought perhaps just ban them. Unsure to tax or ban, the City Council kicked the issue down to committee to tackle again some other day.

    Now the good Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl wants to compare liquor sales with inventory in order to gauge liquor thefts at local supermarkets. Why? Does she suspect a correlation of plastic grocery bags used in these liquor thefts as a reason to ban plastic bags? Thieves might be hiding the liquor in these environmentally-harmful plastic bags and walking out of the store to booze it up and litter our good city. I jest but…

    Tisdahl and city officials seem to be interfering in the basic function of private business. It is a business owner's job to periodically account inventory to sales and determine an action plan to deal with loss due to theft.

    What is Mayor Tisdahl's primary concern here? Does she think Evanston business owners with a liquor license are not reporting liquor thefts?  If they are not, is it an ordinance violation or perhaps a matter for police? Theft is a crime. What does the police chief think about the Liquor Commission's involvement?

    Even more alarming, Mayor Tisdahl wants grocery stores to report booze thefts in order to "work with the owners on possible redesigns of their sales space." 

    What kind of redesign of sale space in stores does Mayor Tisdahl and other Evanston city bureaucrats have in mind?  What if an owner disagrees with the city's proposed store redesign would Tisdahl then take their liquor license away? When did government bureaucrats start telling private owners where they can place  merchandise inside THEIR business? 

    Why stop at liquor thefts? Why not require local supermarket owners to report the number of food items that slip out their stores? Why not require stores that sell prescription and over-the-counter drugs to provide Mayor Tisdahl regular reports of theft?  

    This is a bizarre turn of events. I'd like to know what Evanston business owners with a liquor license think. Maybe they're afraid to rock the boat because they think Tisdahl would strip their liquor license.

    Evanston business owners should know that in Evanston politics the squeeky wheel gets the grease. If you act like a wallflower your interests will get plastered.

    Many businesses are in survival mode. More regulation and taxation worsens the problem. Tisdahl, an ardent Democrat and union favorite, should know that less businesses means less private enterprises to tax. That means it will be even harder to grant government union employees their annual pay raises.

    Say, how about a liquor theft tax. Businesses would be taxed for every ounce that is stolen from their stores.

    Wait, maybe that's what Mayor Tisdahl and the City Council really want!


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