Here’s a recap of our live coverage of this evening’s Evanston City Council Administration and Public Works Committee meeting.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

The meeting was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Some technical difficulties with the cable access video feed have delayed the start of the meeting. Also waiting for one more alderman to arrive. Meeting called to order at 6:13 p.m.

Minutes approved.

Bills approved.

A 3.1 – ThyssenKrupp elevator maintenance agreement for Sherman Plaza garage. $34K, Nearly $5K less than last year. Approved.

A 3.2 – Place Consulting contract for special service area for Main/Chicago and Dempster/Chicago business districts. $37K.

Allan Price, owner of properties on Main Street, former president of the Main Street merchants association. Says SSAs have improved other neighborhoods he’s aware of and says it would be a great benefit to this area. Says the business districts are operating below their potential now.

In response to question he says Lupita’s Restaurant, Dave’s Rock Shop, the Wine Goddess and Trattoria DOC are tenants in his buildings.

In response to question from Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, Johanna Nyden, of city’s economic development staff, says the area would no longer be eligible for the city’s Great Merchants Grants program once it became an SSA.

But Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons says there could be the opportunity for future partnerships with the city on development projects.

The merchant grants now typically run under $10K per business district per year.

Approved.

A 4 – Liquor license for Bangers and Lace, 810 Grove St.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, objects to a 3 a.m. license for the establishment. Says seems to be no need for that. Proposes amendment to limit it to a 2 a.m. license and consider the later hour after it’s been in operation for six or nine months.

Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar says there are six other restaurants downtown that have 3 a.m. licenses. 

Nick Podesta, one of proprietors of Bang and Lace, says the business is very family oriented. Says 2 a.m. is reasonable and something they could do.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says she wouldn’t want to put this restaurant at a disadvantage compared to businesses in the same area.

Committee votes to hold temporarily.

A 5 – CVS liquor license for 3333 Central St.

Rainey says CVS has agreed to give Little Beans $200K for improvements. SBA wants commitment from CVS to commit the money first. But CVS has refused, which Rainey says is shutting down the Little Beans project at Asbury and Oakton.

Wants to hold this liquor license so CVS will realized that we all have to work together in this town.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, says its a huge barrier for the community to have the Little Beans projects stalled. Asks CVS reps to look at a “360 view” of the community here.

Committee votes to hold it in committee until next meeting.

A 6 – Liquor license for Shell Gas Station at 2494 Oakton.

Rainey asks for suspension of the rules to give final approval tonight.

—–

Back to Bangers and Lace …

Farrar says the 3 a.m. licensees include … Tommy Nevins, Cheesies and Prairia Moon,

Rainey says she gives up and withdraws her objection to the 3 a.m. license.

License approved.

Discussion item on Liquor tax

Related story here.

Rainey says report shows that liquor tax appears to have no impact on sales here.

Suggests other communities could start raise money by putting a tax on alcohol. Says nothing here is broken.

Johanna Nyden of the economic development department says Chicago has a .25% tax on sale of food and drinks in restaurants, and a sliding scale tax on different forms of liquor on a per gallon basis

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says doesn’t think the presentation gave any information on how it impacts the retailers in town. Says we have a lot more restaurants than other towns — so would expect them to sell more alcohol.

Says Evanston has a long and storied history with alcohol. Says we used to have the most churches per capita. Says no longer should be in the position of punishing people for buying alcohol.

Says unfortunate that have become dependent on the income from that.

And says it’s very anti-competitive for retailers. No accident that some of the alcohol retailers in Skokie and Wilmette are right on our border.

Says large retailers — supermarkets — are able to cover the cost by sales of other items.

Says small retailers provide pizzazz for the community and draw people to the small shopping districts in town. Says this kind of a tax is very harmful to them.

Allan Price says if go into a Sam’s Club or Jewel, or any other large business, you may not be thinking about the tax that shows up on the overall bill. But when go into boutique and see the additional six percent on the bill — if you’re buying case quantities that make’s a big difference. Gives people an incentive to go out of town to avoid the tax.

Diana Hamann, owner of Wine Goddess, says liquor tax is very harmful to her business. Says only seven other of the 50 communities in the region she checked, impose a liquor tax on retail sales.

Mayor Tisdahl says she tends to grab a bottle at Whole Foods because its faster. Says citizens haven’t come to her and complain about the tax. Says lots of restaurants have told her that a food and beverage tax would not be appreciated here.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, says its mainly, for her, about the budget implications. Says even a 1 percent reduction would cost the city about $413K. Really about those hard numbers, she says.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, says thinks speaker wants to look at different rules for small retail businesses. If don’t want to do that, then should move on.

Rainey says there’s no graduated tax at state level, doesn’t think should be here. Says city does recognize small businesses in term of smaller liquor license fee.

Price says the small wine shops in Evanston probably do less than $2 million gross sales, would be small difference in revenue if lowered tax on those establishments.

Committee votes to refer the issue to the liquor commission.

Meeting adjourned at 7:17 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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