Who's thirsty? Champaign council considering tweaks to liquor code

Who's thirsty? Champaign council considering tweaks to liquor code

Would you like a chardonnay while you're shopping for groceries at one of Champaign's specialty stores?

If city council members give the thumbs up to a series of proposed tweaks to the city's liquor code, that could soon be a reality — at certain stores, anyway.

Other possible changes that will be discussed starting tonight would loosen the restrictions of where one can take drinks outdoors at some downtown events and allow for farmer's markets to sell packaged beer and wine.

Deputy City Manager Matt Roeschley said the proposal's main purpose is to "make the liquor code more flexible and fit better with business models out there."

Here are three highlights:

DOWNTOWN DRINKING

At events like Friday Night Live, attendees sometimes wander — with drink in hand — from liquor-serving establishments to public streets and sidewalks.

As things stand now, that isn't allowed (beyond small designated outdoor-patio areas). But Roeschley said he is having preliminary conversations with event hosts about creating specific downtown community-event areas that would allow drinks to be carried (likely in plastic cups) onto public sidewalks, streets and alleys if they've been purchased from establishments within that area.

This practice would also be restricted to certain time periods.

"I don't envision the concept being something that would fundamentally change the way liquor sales occur," he said.

SIP 'N' SHOP

Some retailers, including Harvest Market (in the Carriage Center on South Neil Street) and Grovestone (in the Old Farm Shops complex on West Kirby Avenue), have contacted the city about allowing customers to "sip and shop," which "seems to be a trend in the grocery industry," Roeschley said. "I know a Whole Foods in the Chicago area does a similar thing."

City staff is proposing a new liquor-license category that would allow on-premises drinking in the retail sections of grocery stores and specialty food or liquor shops. Not recommended here or in the next category: allowing this practice anywhere in Campustown.

FARMERS MARKETS

No one is proposing allowing alcohol consumption at farmers markets, but a proposed change to the rules would pave the way for package-wine and -beer sales, as well as free drink sampling and tasting, on the grounds.

Currently, markets can only sell alcohol if they get a temporary liquor license reserved for special public events.

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