Berwyn alderman calls for post-midnight packaged liquor sales ban

The Berwyn City Council recently voted 6-2 against a proposal to ban liquor sales after midnight in liquor stores and mini-marts.

The measure, which was brought to the council Aug. 10 by 8th Ward Alderman Joseph Carmichael, was intended as a proactive response to Chicago’s recent ban on liquor store sales after midnight. Carmichael said he wanted a similar ban in Berwyn in order to prevent the suburb from becoming “the premier destination for late-night alcohol.”

A ban on post-midnight liquor sales in Berwyn would impact half a dozen businesses. Bars would not be impacted.

“The intention of the Chicago ordinance is to curb crime by preventing loitering outside of stores,” Carmichael wrote in a memo to the council. “I have spoken to violence prevention organizations who have confirmed that late-night liquor stores are notorious locations for undesirable and potentially violent activity. With Chicago making midnight as the cutoff, Berwyn is now positioned as the premiere late-night liquor destination.

“According to the police reports I read every week, much of the worst crime in Berwyn occurs between midnight and around 3 a.m., and alcohol is often involved,” Carmichael added. “This seems to me to be a very small measure we can take to mitigate crime.

“Inviting people in to buy booze after midnight when we’re already dealing with serious crime issues seems like a bad idea to me,” Carmichael continued, referencing recent robberies, carjackings and shootings documented in the Berwyn Police Department’s weekly reports on social media. Those reports routinely note when suspects are from Chicago and when crimes are tied to Chicago gangs.

Carmichael said he had reached out four times in recent weeks to Berwyn Police Chief Michael Cimaglia but had not received a response. A Berwyn police spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

Carmichael was joined by 5th Ward Alderman Robert Pabon in supporting the proposal.

Berwyn Food and Liquors, 6338 Ogden Ave., lists hours until 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 a.m. the rest of the week. Ram Liquors, 6515 Cermak Road, lists Friday and Saturday hours until 1 a.m. Other post-midnight Berwyn liquor stores include Jack’s Food and Liquor, 6721 W. Roosevelt Road, which is open until 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Route 66 Beverage, 6847 Ogden Ave., lists closing hours at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and earlier the rest of the week.

Carmichael said he hadn’t been made aware of any problems at Berwyn’s late-night outlets, but was concerned the Chicago ban could change that.

That prompted an exchange between Carmichael and Mayor Robert Lovero, who also serves as the city’s liquor commissioner.

Lovero: “So where’s the problems that occurred then?”

Carmichael: “I haven’t seen any problems. I don’t have a problem with our liquor stores. The idea is to try and prevent potential problems in the future and ...”

Lovero: Did you contact the police with respect to whether or not we’ve had problems in the past? Or the liquor commissioner?”

Carmichael: “No. Because this is a new ...”

Lovero: “I see that you dealt with Chicago. But you’re talking about Berwyn. You’re taking a Chicago thing and putting it in Berwyn. Chicago is not Berwyn.”

Carmichael: “No, it’s not. But Berwyn is very close to Chicago. What I’m talking about trying to do is just set the hours to midnight because we’re the first place over the border where people can get alcohol.”

Carmichael moved to pass the measure to the city’s legal department, but Lovero said there was nothing to vote on because Carmichael hadn’t correctly drafted his proposal.

Before an ordinance can move to the city’s legal department to be transformed into a legally enforceable local law, the council first needs to pass a “resolution” that enumerates the intent of the proposed ordinance and the reasons it is needed. Once that resolution is approved, the legal department nails down the official verbiage.

Carmichael hadn’t written a resolution to accompany his memo explaining the intent and need for his proposal. Without a proper resolution, there was nothing to send to the legal department, Lovero said.

“I didn’t label this as the resolution, so I made a mistake,” Carmichael said after the meeting. “I guess in the moment I wanted to just vote on it anyway, partly because I was frustrated.

“My plan now is to discuss it with each alderman individually, hear their concerns, and hopefully we can keep talking and bring it up again,” he said.