Brookfield restaurant owners who don’t sell beer and wine can now apply for a special liquor license allowing patrons to bring in their own bottles.
On Nov. 23, trustees voted 4-1 to pass a bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) ordinance that will allow restaurant customers to bring into a restaurant up to one 750ml bottle of wine or three 12-ounce bottles of beer per person over the age of 21.
In order to allow customers this privilege, restaurants must pay a $500 fee each year, and a restaurant staff member is required to open all bottles brought into the establishment.
Trustees considered the new liquor law after being approached by at least two restaurant owners who sought such a license.
The only trustee voting against creating the new liquor license classification was C.P. Hall, who reiterated witnessing abuses of BYOB laws when he lived in Tennessee many years ago. Trustee David LeClere was absent from the meeting.
Those voting in favor of the new classification did so despite the objections of the Brookfield Bar Owners Association, which represents a dozen drinking establishments in the village.
Ellen Frantzen, the owner of Joe’s Saloon in Brookfield who served as the group’s spokeswoman, argued that if restaurants wanted to serve liquor they should have to apply for one of the various licenses already offered by the village.
Allowing patrons to bring wine and beer into restaurants would not result in additional sales tax for the village, Frantzen said.
“We want all businesses to pay their fair share,” Frantzen said, urging the board put to put off a vote until they considered the group’s objections.
“If more places are allowed BYOB licenses, what’s to stop businesses with liquor licenses from going to BYOB?” she asked. “It’s lost tax dollars to the village.
“If alcohol is important then they can make space to accommodate their limited needs.”
Licenses that allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol are much more expensive to acquire.
Ones allowing beer, wine and spirits cost either $2,400 or $1,800 annually depending on whether the establishment has a 4 a.m. or 2 a.m. closing time. A beer-and-wine-only license costs $600 per year.
Liquor license applicants are also charged a one-time, non-refundable $500 application fee which covers the village’s costs for background checks and legal review.
Trustee Michael Towner disagreed with the claim that BYOB would hurt business in Brookfield. Instead, he said the new law might help new businesses succeed. He also noted that the village was limiting the amount of alcohol that can be brought into a BYOB establishment and that licenses and practices would still be reviewed by the village’s liquor commissioner.
Trustee Cathy Colgrass Edwards agreed with Towner and said that BYOB establishments weren’t necessarily competing with bars and taverns that also serve food.
“I don’t think we’re taking anything away from anyone else,” Edwards said.