Evanston aldermen Monday unanimously rejected a plan to locate a liquor store in the former Quiznos shop at 812 Davis St.

The vote came after opponents presented petitions they said contained hundreds of signatures of neighbors opposed to the project.

John Pikarski, an attorney for applicant Nizar Alimohd, said Alimohd had spent $500,000 to buy the retail condominium that houses the store, plans $90,000 in renovations and would have $50,000 in inventory.

He said that although the city zoning code requires that the project be described as a convenience store, the fine wine and liquor business the owner intends to run would be far different from what people typically think of as a convenience store.

He added that, given the costs involved, the store wouldn’t be able to make it as a low-margin convenience store and “it only make sense for a fine wine store” with higher markups.

But aldermen said they were concerned about how Alimohd would operate the store, given that he began work to remodel it without obtaining city permits.

Alimohd also owns the Davis Pantry convenience store at 927 Davis St.

Alderman Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, earlier sent a letter to city staff saying that when she visited the convenience store she found customers smoking in the entranceway and that the store was not clean.

Residents and some aldermen said they believe there’s no need for a liquor or convenience store on the block, noting that there’s a convenience store just across the street and two other liquor stores downtown.

But Pikarski said that with 19,000 workers within walking distance and 8,000 residents downtown, there would be plenty of customers for the business.

The Zoning Board of Appeals had recommended approval of the project on a 3-1 vote, but the city’s Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee recommended denial on a 6-1 vote.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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16 Comments

  1. Liquor stores
    There’s only one thing harder to get approved in this town than a condo development, and that’s a commercial establishment that either sells or serves alcohol.

    I found the comments at the meeting about neighbors fearing the consequences of selling alcohol so close to a methadone clinic ironic. I don’t see a lot of heroin addicts buying $50 bottles of Scotch at Evanston 1st or popping in to Koi for shots of sake after their treatments, but yeah… I suppose we should shut this type of thing down before this activity becomes an epidemic.

    Way to keep things in perspective, Evanston. Keep begging for that Trader Joe’s though. This town desperately needs a place that specializes in $3 bottles of wine.

    Also, could someone please point me in the direction of this elusive second liquor store mentioned in downtown Evanston? The only place I can find that sells the hard stuff to-go is Evanston 1st. They’re great, but another option is always nice.

    1. Re: Liquor Stores in Evanston – Locations
      Here are a few I know of.

      Evanston 1st Liquors is a block west from where these folks wanted to open their new store on Davis, which I find interesting from a business perspective.

      Jewel on Chicago and Dominicks on Howard both sell hard liquor.

      WineStyles, (who sells wine, obviously), is on Sherman/Clark, next to Taco Bell. (If they’re still in business, haven’t been by in a while.)

      Cost Plus World Market on Church/Maple sells Wine, Beer, (and Saki).

      Whole Foods on Chicago/Church sells Beer and Wine.

      D&D Finer Foods at 825 Noyes sells Beer & Wine, and possibly harder stuff.

      It is probably also worth mentioning that Evanston comes from a long history of being a “Dry” town, and that only relatively, (in the scheme of history), recently have they allowed booze.

      Sláinte!
      – Calin

      1. Jewel considered a “liquor store”?
        Thanks Calin.
        Winestyles, World Market, Whole Foods, D&D, etc all sell beer/wine only. I don’t shop at the Chicago Ave. Jewel much, so I wasn’t aware that they sold liquor there, but I suppose that counts as the “second” liquor store in the downtown area referred to in the article.

        Even taking into account the dry status of Evanston from 1855-1972, this city and it’s residents still seem to have some very odd and dated views towards alcohol sales. Prohibition ended in the 1930’s and yet residents are up in arms over the idea of a high-end liquor store opening up in the middle of an urban area. I don’t get it.

        1. liquor a-plenty
          You have plenty of options to buy your liquor (hard or otherwise) in Evanston. Calin has offered options for you. What is your true ‘beef’ with the denial?

          Evanston id far from a ‘dry’ town. There are numerous eating establishments that offer liquor with or without a meal and, again, numerous options for buying liquor at a store.

          So again I ask…what is the real issue you have here with the permit denial?

          1. liquor without a meal?
            “Evanston id far from a ‘dry’ town. There are numerous eating establishments that offer liquor with or without a meal and, again, numerous options for buying liquor at a store.”

            Which eating establishment offers liquor without a meal? My understanding was that the retstaurant licenses require that food be ordered too – even if it is just one potato chip or one little Cocoa Puff – still, food must be served too.

          2. Re: Drink and a Puff
            HA HA! That’s hilarious! I totally want a bowl of Cocoa Puffs now. hee hee!

            That would be AMAZING. I think we should have a “restaurant” that serves a single cocoa puff with a double scotch. I would absolutely go there. No question about it!

            Coo-Coo!
            – Calin

          3. me thinks a drinks is what I need
            To clarify, as one example, I can go to Tommy Nevins and drink a wonderful pint (or two or three) of my favorite brew without so much as eating one morsel. However, if I’m in the mood for a gastronomical treat I have the option of ordering from the pub or in the restaurant.

            This is just one example of eating establishments which offer liquor with or without a meal.

            Pete Miller’s is another…Celtic Knot is one more…Bar Louie is yet another…The Firehouse, Koi, and on and on.

            It is true that the ordinance states that food must be served in the establishment, but it does not force anyone to eat food whilst enjoying their elixer of choice.

            BTW, I think Evanston has done a nice job of balancing the wants of families and the wants of singles to make the nightlife community here nicely rounded.

          4. Re: Racer X (liquor a-plenty)
            My true beef here is that I find the opposition to a second liquor store in Evanston a bit strange, a point that I already addressed in my previous comments. Beyond that, I’m not really sure what you’re getting at.

            Calin was kind enough to point out some other options in the downtown area, but as someone who drinks single malt whiskeys (something a high-end liquor store would stock), I felt the need to clarify that beer and wine stores, as well as most grocery stores, are not the same as liquor stores.

            I happen to agree with the attorney in this case, Mr. Pikarski, that a store selling high-end liquor in the downtown area of Evanston would have plenty of customers.

          5. Re: Liquor a-plenty… Online
            If you’re shopping, you might want to try http://www.grandwinecellar.com (the “Spirits” tab), or http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com
            (they ship to the US, but you pay in English pounds).

            If you can’t find anything at either of those, try http://www.Froogle.com – Google’s shopping site.

            The only difference is the amount of time it takes to get the product. But if you’re not willing to wait for fine single malt Scotch, well, you don’t drink fine Scotch! (It takes some 18 years for it to mature, after all, right?)

            I love shopping in my slippers. Don’t you? 😉

            Cheers!
            – Calin

        2. Re: The Real Reason the “Liquor Store” was denied a permit.
          I watched the city meeting live on TV, and from what I heard and understand, the real reason the permit for the store was denied is this: (correct me if I’m wrong here…)

          The business owners, (who have a lawyer who has helped open other stores, and who own another store down the street), tried to open the “High-End Liquor Store” with a permit that was initially started as a “Convenience Store”.

          The two, (for legal purposes, and anyone with common sense), are not synonymous. So, their license/permit/ability to open/etc. Was denied by the city council.

          You can’t say, “I’m going to open a shoe store”, and then try to “trick” the city council into allowing you to open a gym that happens to sell shoes after the fact.

          I’m also not sure how many liquor licenses Evanston has. Many cities limit the number and a waiting list is required before someone can get one, and they’re not passed out like candy. (If they were, I’d have one and so could you. Heck, let’s all sell booze!) If you don’t make it hard to get a license, everyone will want one. Then what? Booze in every store? Might as well give it away for free to underage kids at that point.

          Anyone who has or wants to open a Bar, Liquor Store, Restaurant, or other facility that sells liquor should already know this. I got the impression these folks didn’t do their homework before going to the council. (Or hoped they’d overlook them.)

          1. maybe an additional “real reason”
            Calin wrote: “I got the impression these folks didn’t do their homework before going to the council. (Or hoped they’d overlook them.)”

            Thanks for providing the additional information about this permitting issue. The owners probably did make a few major missteps. However, I don’t think they were ever going to be “overlooked.” Their neighbors in the condos above their site (the orange balcony building) found out about it right away and began to organize and make noise about it quickly.

            I would imagine that the incorrect business classification in the application made the decision much easier for City Council to defend. And they were able to do what the closest residential neighbors were requesting.

          2. Convenience
            Hi Calin,

            The “convenience store” label was not something the applicant came up with — it was the label required by the city for the project, because, the zoning administrator said, it’s the closest option available in the zoning code.

            — Bill

          3. Re: Convenience vs. Zoning Law
            Thanks for the clarification Bill. Sounds like someone trying to “bend” zoning rules if you ask me. (Square peg, round hole, anyone?)

            – Calin

  2. HIgh End Liquor
    RLA-

    I do agree with you, but look at where we live.

    The heart of activism… on everything. I guess, good luck on doing anything in Evanston.

    While I applaud the public action, I sometimes wonder if it stifles Evanston from being more of a progressive city, one that hosts a big 10 Univeristy no less.

    And… Methadone Clinic downtown – where the heck is that and HOW did the citizens of Evanston allow that to get passed!!!?

  3. Liquor in Evanston
    The liquor ordinance of Evanston reads that for restaurants with liquor licenses in the downtown area, food must be available for purchase, generally until about 10:00 p.m. A patron does not have to purchase any food but it must be available.

    In restaurants outside the downtown district, an actual meal must be served with the purchase of liquor. If one is simply waiting for a table and intends to eventually eat at the restaurant, they may also order a drink at the bar of the restaurant without ordering food.

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