Riverside trustees agreed on Feb. 18 to waive liquor license fees for a handful of local restaurants and bars for a second consecutive year due to uncertainty surrounding what COVID-19 restrictions may remain in place later in 2021.
The village board will take formal action to waive the liquor license fees for The Chew Chew/Sawmilly, LaBarra Ristorante, La Estancia, Quincy Street Distillery and Mollie’s Public House next month.
The fee would also be waived for Catrina Bar, a new establishment planned for 34 East Ave. that is slated to open next month in the small downtown storefront. Liquor licenses must be renewed by May 1 of each year.
The fees represent a fairly hefty annual expense for business owners. Depending on whether the establishment also has a license for takeout/delivery of alcohol, liquor licenses can run between $1,050 and $2,700 annually. Quincy Street Distillery’s license is much less expensive at $385 to operate the small tasting room attached to the distillery.
However, the total amount of revenue collected by Riverside from those fees, because there are so few liquor licenses awarded in the village, is not that much. By waiving those fees, the village will lose out on approximately $8,000.
“I think this is a time where we need to continue to help the restaurants as much as we can, and this is a small gesture we can make to help them out without a huge expense to the village,” said Trustee Patricia Collins.
The waiver does not extend to Brookfield Zoo, which sits partially within the corporate boundaries of Riverside (the remainder is in Brookfield) and includes restaurants and other vendors serving alcohol to visitors.
The zoo’s Class B liquor license costs $10,500 annually. In addition, according to Village Clerk Cathy Haley, the zoo’s foodservice vendor, SSA Group LLC, applied for and received approval for a Class B license in 2020 to serve alcohol on zoo property.
However, said Haley, neither license is currently active since Brookfield was forced to close for so long during the pandemic.
Trustees also agreed to extend the temporary use of village rights-of way to accommodate additional outdoor seating at downtown Riverside establishments. When the state of Illinois eased COVID-19 restrictions last summer as case numbers dropped, Riverside allowed LaBarra and Chew Chew/Sawmilly to extend outdoor seating into the public parkway and into on-street parking areas.
While LaBarra never extended seating into the street, they did place tables on the public parkway, while The Chew Chew set up tables for a time in the street parking area in front of the restaurant. Those on-street tables went away after The Chew Chew built out its off-street outdoor seating area east of the building.
Last year’s order also allowed Mollie’s and La Estancia to extend outdoor seating in front of those establishments.