Oak Park officials will take a closer look at the possibility of allowing true bars in the village, following a vote by the Village Board Monday night.
Six members of the Village Board voted to have the Liquor Control Review Board examine the potential effect if liquor license classifications were expanded to include establishments that primarily sold alcohol.
Board President Anan Abu-Taleb, owner of Maya del Sol restaurant and holder of a liquor license, abstained from the vote.
Trustee Peter Barber initiated the conversation, noting the success of the Madison Street bar and restaurant corridor in neighboring Forest Park.
“There was probably a very good reason we didn’t have this to begin with,” he conceded. “But this can become part of our economic development toolkit.”
Oak Park, at one time, was a dry town that did not allow liquor sales of any type. Over the years, village officials have lifted restrictions, allowing liquor sales at restaurants for consumption on the premises.
Trustee Colette Lueck expressed concerns about how establishments primarily selling alcohol would be administered, especially when close to residential areas.
“There are particular areas where I can see difficulties in the way we typically zone,” she said. “You can’t zone Madison for liquor in a block, then not a block, and then a block.”
Trustee Adam Salzman agreed there may be some cause for concern.
“The impact of a bar in one neighborhood could be different than the impact of a bar in another neighborhood,” he said.
But Salzman said he believes regardless, if liquor license classifications are expanded, control ultimately would remain with the village.
“As a village trustee, I’ve heard from folks that think it’s a good thing that we do this thing incrementally on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “I think eventually, there will be a bar in Oak Park. It’s a matter of whether we go case-by-case.”
Salzman, other board members and Victoria Scaman, chair of the five-member liquor board, said they would be more comfortable if they had more community input, including from Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley. Board members also suggested they could predict to a degree the effect alcohol-only establishments might have by looking at the records of village restaurants that currently serve alcohol.
The board asked Scaman to return with a timeline in which Barber’s request could be considered and brought to a vote. Scaman told the board she expected to return with that timeline in October.