Half-pints and pints of alcohol will stay on liquor store shelves, but single mini-bottles and bottles/cans of beer will be prohibited under a proposed ordinance that will go before the Joliet City Council next month.
The Joliet Liquor Commission met with more than 50 store owners, liquor distributors and liquor industry representives Wednesday to hash out the details of new rules designed to make it harder for homeless alcoholics who panhandle in downtown to have easy access to inexpensive alcohol, officials said.
"We're not picking on (liquor store owners)," said Sgt. Thomas Grutzius, who heads the police department's specials services unit for downtown. "It's not our intent to run anyone out of business. It's a quality of life issue."
Few in the audience argued with the intent of the law, but there were concerns raised about the inequity of a two-tier rule for the sale of single cans of beer.
Any liquor store doing business in the city's downtown and Cass Street tax increment financing districts -- or within 1,000 feet of them -- would be banned from selling single containers of beer holding 40 ounces or less. In all other parts of the city, the size limit would be 12 ounces or less.
Simon Theodorou, who owns , El Ranchito and and in the Cass Street zone, said the rule would hurt him and benefit his competitors.
"This is not going to accomplish anything," Theodorou said. "(Those who want the larger beer serving) are just going to walk five or six blocks this way or five or six blocks that way. This puts me at a competitive disadvantage."
While sympathetic, Joliet Police Chief Mike Trafton said the city must do something to eliminate a segment of the population that does nothing but loiter downtown and tends to keep people from going to the "city center." It will become an even more pressing issue as the city builds its multimillion-dollar in the area between the , Union Station and Silver Cross Field.
"We've got to do something about that (problem)," Trafton said. "How do we improve downtown? I think this is a legitimate way to do it."
The commission was more willing to concede on a second issue raised by the audience: Craft beers.
"(This proposed ordinance would) really block out an entire area, a growing area, that's very popular right now," said Jerry Rosen, executive director of the Beverage Retailers Alliance of Illinois. "I don't think it's in anyone's interest to throw out an entire category."
Craft beers, produced by small speciality breweries, are often shipped and sold as individual bottles. They tend to be expensive, and fans like to sample one or two bottles rather than buy in quantity.
The alternative proposed by Mayor Tom Giarrante, chairman of the liquor commission, seemed acceptable to those in attendance. While the sale of single bottles would be out, stores could allow customers to mix and match unrefrigerated craft beers as long as they purchase a four- or six-pack, he said.
A similar provision will allow stores to sell mini-bottles of liquor as long as they're pre-packaged in groups of four or six.
The proposed ordinance will be redrafted to include the clause for craft beer and will be presented for city council approval either at one of the two September meetings. If it's adopted, there will be a 60-day period before it's enacted so stores can sell off their supplies of mini liquor bottles, Giarrante said.