River Forest signs off on liquor license for CVS — with a catch

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The River Forest Village Board unanimously signed off on a liquor license Monday for the CVS at North and Thatcher avenues, but they could still be overruled by history.

Village officials said anything in the village ordinance or in CVS’s original agreement that stated the store would never request a liquor license would nullify the board’s decision.

“The ordinance would trump your vote,” village administrator Eric Palm told the trustees as they voted.

About this time last year, village officials approved liquor licenses allowing beer and wine to be sold by the glass at Starbucks, 7201 Lake St., and allowing Whole Foods to replace some of its wine selections with hard liquor.

However, prior to Monday’s vote, resident John Dzuryak presented each board member with the May 9, 2002 minutes from the village’s Development Review Board.

According to those minutes, “Chairman Martin asked Mr. Lowe to commit to the fact that CVS would not be requesting a liquor license. Mr. Lowe said that CVS specified at previous hearing they would not request one, and he said they just wanted to restate it.”

Dzuryak said he had attended most of those original meetings and that the minutes captured only small portions of what was said. But according to his recollection, Dzuryak said, CVS officials did explicitly state that they were not, nor would they in the future, seek a liquor license.

“If you allow them, you would be violating that agreement, and I think that would be a major issue to violate that agreement,” he said.

Palm, however, speculated that CVS’s current interest in a liquor license may have been influenced by the closing last year of the Dominick’s grocery store, 7501 W. North Ave.

“My sense is it’s more of a business model decision they made at the time,” he said.

Trustee Susan Conti said she recalled the location of CVS on North Avenue as “highly, highly contentious.” Residents, she said, were concerned about traffic, crime and noise, but their concerns were unfounded.

“I think CVS has been a good neighbor,” she said.

Conti also noted that the license is subject to annual renewal and if there are problems, the board can deny a request to renew.

Trustee Thomas Cargie said he believes the key to whether the license should be allowed is in the language of the original application and whether CVS said it wouldn’t seek a liquor license at that time or it would never seek a liquor license.

CVS store manager Wes Addison, who has worked in several capacities at the North Avenue store for two years, said any questions about the company’s intent to never request a liquor license were new to him.

“It’s been recorded we’re a good, sound business,” he told the village trustees. “Whatever we have to do to be in compliance with the village of River Forest, we want to do so.”

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