IL: Officials OK liquor displays storewide for Naperville
By Susan Frick Carlman
November 5, 2015
Shoppers soon can expect to find a few suggestions for what to serve with this roast or that piece of cheese at some Naperville grocery stores.
Officials this week cast a divided vote to relax the rules for the display of liquor in stores where alcohol isn’t the primary product. In a 6-3 decision, the board ruled that stores can dedicate up to 20 percent of their floor space to liquor displays, but none of the alcohol can be placed within 10 feet of checkout lines. The new rules also stipulate that tastings must be kept in the defined liquor display area.
Speakers who addressed the council members in advance of their decision included retailers who have pressed for relaxing the code. A memo from Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Steve Chirico and city attorney Kavita Athanikar, who advises the Liquor Commission, related that in a July forum with retail liquor license holders, representatives from Jewel and Costco said their sales were hampered by the restrictions separating beer, wine and liquor displays from the rest of their merchandise.
“The significant value of cross-merchandising was a sentiment shared by all liquor licensees in attendance,” said the memo, which reported that the current rules put Naperville at a competitive disadvantage relative to towns where the rules are less stringent.
Among those who spoke to the council about the matter Tuesday was Jeremy Komar, representing Whole Foods. He said he moved to the city in 1984 and appreciates the concern some officials have aired over protecting “the heritage of Naperville, the level of class” that drive the community’s prestigious brand. However, Komar also said he’s worried by reports that Americans have begun to spend more on restaurant food and drink than groceries and beverages for off-premises consumption.
“Just to put your fears aside, we’re not looking to turn Whole Foods Market into a liquor store,” he said, adding that the store’s liquor sales, now 2.5 to 2.75 percent of total sales, stand to grow by about 1 percent with the relaxed restrictions. “That’s not going to happen.”
Countering the retailers’ perspective was Katy Leclair, recently seated CEO at 360 Youth Services, which works to discourage young people from experimenting with alcohol and other drugs. Leclair commended the council for relaxing the restrictions rather than eliminating them, hailing as sensible policy such measures as forbidding alcohol sales within 10 feet of a checkout line, but cautioned the policymakers to finalize their decisions mindfully.
“As we look at the issue from a social service provider perspective, I see on a daily basis the impact that alcohol use has on children, adults and families,” Leclair said, also urging a ban on alcohol displays on stores’ end caps, which the retailers have cited as a significant help to their bottom line. “When we market to adults, we are also marketing to children.”
Some council members voiced qualms about making the changes, saying they fear it could lead to an increase in theft and also were reluctant to devote more floor space storewide to promoting liquor sales.
Councilman Paul Hinterlong described the measures as “a game changer” not seen in the city before. He and Councilwomen Rebecca Boyd-Obarski and Patty Gustin voted against the changes.
In addition to Chirico, those supporting the new rules were council members Becky Anderson, Judy Brodhead, Kevin Coyne, Kevin Gallaher and John Krummen.