Just months after a new liquor law put into place stricter rules for bars and restaurants on North Main Street in St. Charles, some owners want the law changed or repealed.
The city council passed the new liquor law in September 2018, and the rules went into effect Jan. 1. Part of the law only affects establishments on the three blocks of North Main Street between Clark and Jefferson streets.
The law has proven unpopular with bar owners who feel the rules target North Main Street unfairly. City Councilwoman Mary Ann Ohms, whose first district includes Main Street, said she is planning to introduce an amendment to the law.
Under the rules implemented in January, bars and restaurants must generate half their revenue from the sale of food, not alcohol. Previously, there was a firm minimum of $200,000 in annual food sales.
Eric Sohn, general manager of Quintessential Dining and Nightlife on North Main Street, said his restaurant usually meets the 50% requirement, but it can be a problem for other bars in the area.
“I think it’s unrealistic for some of our neighbors,” Sohn said. “If you’re one of these smaller bars that’s known for selling cheap burgers and fries, it’s really hard to do.”
Additionally, the new St. Charles liquor law includes a punitive point system for bars and restaurants where infractions or crimes are committed, whether on North Main Street or elsewhere in the city.
For example, failure to train employees properly means a bar gets 1 point, serving an underage patron gains 3 points, and a homicide on-site results in 3.5 points. An establishment that accumulates 6.5 points in a three-month period has its liquor license revoked.
Tony Bethmann, owner of Tony’s on Main, said the point system goes “overboard.” He pointed out serving multiple minors gets a bar more points than a homicide and some of the infractions have nothing to do with alcohol.
“If your gutter is hanging down, over repair and maintenance issues to your building, they can give you points on your liquor license,” Bethmann said. “It’s just bizarre.”
The new rules aren’t the only thing owners are unhappy about. Sohn and Bethmann both said the public attention and media coverage of North Main Street has been bad for business. An earlier proposal, which did not pass, would have mandated bars stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m.
Even though that rule never went into effect, bars and restaurants still get calls asking if they’re open past 11 p.m. almost a year later. Bethmann said, for his establishment, sales between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. are down by about half.
Sohn said the ordinance targeting the three blocks of North Main Street is unlike any other arrangement he knows of in the state. He said the law is anti-business and he believes it will be repealed. Bethmann also wants the law to change.
“Just go back to the old rules,” he said.
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