Wine bar/art gallery gets cold shoulder

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By BOB UPHUES

Ron Aguirre says he's been trying to get the Village of Brookfield to give him a liquor license so he can open a wine bar/art gallery at 9441 Ogden Ave. After going nowhere for some while, he thought he was getting somewhere, when the Brookfield Board of Trustees agreed to hear him out in person last month.

Turns out he was going nowhere fast.

At the board's meeting Oct. 24, Village President Michael Garvey broke a 3-3 deadlock among trustees and voted down Aguirre's request for a special liquor license that would have allowed him to serve beer and wine three nights a week and a limited ability to sell package goods.

Trustees Linda Stevanovich, Michael Towner and C.P. Hall voted in favor of creating a license for Aguirre. Trustees Kit Ketchmark, Catherine Colgrass Edwards and Alan Dorobiala voted against it.

"This really ticks me off," Aguirre said. "I've been trying to do this for three years. I just want to know why I'm being discriminated against."

In a letter to the village board dated Sept. 29, Aguirre described the proposed business, which he called VNO, as "an upscale fine wine art bar."

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"My targeted clientele is an upscale mature clientele and interested in fine wines and appreciate the arts, which are few and far between in our area," Aguirre wrote. "The focus of my venture is to introduce the combination of all types of art along with a variety of wines which will be featured in an artistic way."

Aguirre didn't elaborate on what that meant in his letter, but he included a floor plan, which showed a first-floor bar/seating area and an open second-floor, presumably a gallery space. In what is now an outdoor storage area for automobiles directly east of the building, Aguirre said he would construct an outdoor garden area.

VNO's hours would be limited to 16 hours per week, according to Aguirre?"Thursdays from 7 to 11 p.m.; Fridays from 7 p.m. to midnight and Saturday's from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

"I don't want to give the whole element of my idea away," Aguirre said. "I want it to be very different. I don't want a bar-type atmosphere."

But it was that very vagueness that apparently puzzled at least three of the trustees. Aguirre, during his presentation to the board on Oct. 10, described the business primarily as an art gallery.

"I am an artist and I want to bring other artists into the community to show their work at the gallery and sell it," Aguirre told the board.

Yet, it was clear that Aguirre deemed the wine bar aspect of the venture critical for its success. Aguirre said that although the space operates on an appointment-only basis as an art gallery, it has produced no art sales. Aguirre purchased the property in 1996 for $84,000.

Yet, the ordinance that would have granted the special liquor license for VNO stated that alcohol could represent no more than 25 percent of total sales

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After being turned down, Aguirre said he may go back to the board and attempt to explain more clearly what he's looking to accomplish with VNO. Aguirre said he's already gotten the state and county approval to hold a liquor license, and that Brookfield is the hold-up.

"I've already spent too much time, effort and money to let it go," said Aguirre, who called Trustee Kit Ketchmark's questions about his plan "juvenile."

"I'm just going to go back to find out what it is they don't understand," Aguirre said. "If they don't get the concept, then I want a bar. And if I don't get that, I want to know why I'm being discriminated against."

Ketchmark responded that he didn't think VNO fit in with the vision of Ogden Avenue in the master plan.

"In terms of developing Ogden Avenue, I don't think this leads in that direction," Ketchmark said. "The interesting thing is that this is an art gallery/wine bar open late night hours three days a week. Why not open during the day if it's an art gallery. He says there's no demand for it. Then what is his business?"

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