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DeKalb council could change liquor licensing

Published: Friday, June 6, 2014 12:10 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – DeKalb City Council members could soon have the power to issue new liquor licenses.

Aldermen are considering a change to the city’s liquor ordinance that would shift the authority to approve new liquor licensees from the mayor, who also serves as the liquor commissioner, to the full City Council.

The change would be the latest to the city’s overhaul of the liquor ordinance that has taken place in the past two years. The city eliminated the liquor commission and simplified the liquor license classifications. Currently, the process for new liquor licenses entail staff making a recommendation to the mayor, who reviews, accepts or rejects liquor license applications.

The proposed ordinance change was narrowly passed by the council during its meeting last week on a 5-3 vote that moved it to the council’s Monday meeting.

Mayor John Rey was among five officials who voted in support of the changes, saying he welcomes the council being involved in the vetting process. While Rey would still make recommendations to the council and be the final authority on renewals, the new ordinance would take away his sole authority for new licenses.

“I think it will give concurrence from the breadth of the council,” Rey said. “The liquor commissioner will have the viewpoints of the entire council.”

Not all aldermen shared Rey’s sentiments.

First Ward Alderman David Jacobson voted against the change, as did 2nd Ward Alderman Bill Finucane and 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker. Jacobson contended requiring approval from the council could deter a business owner from locating in DeKalb.

Jacobson argued that if the licensee met the requirements laid out in the city’s liquor ordinance, such as passing a criminal background check, that person should be granted the license under the current process.

He did not see the need to weigh in on new licenses.

“Why should the city get involved and throw in a speed bump for a business owner trying to open a business?” Jacobson said, adding it seemed “silly” to make the process “more difficult” when the city is searching for more revenue.

Surrounding communities follow a similar process to the one currently used in DeKalb. In Sycamore, the mayor holds a public hearing on the application before approving or denying it. Sycamore applications do not require City Council approval. Genoa also lets the mayor, as the liquor commissioner, have the authority.

Changing the process might not impact a business owner’s decision about opening in DeKalb, said Roger Hopkins, the city’s economic development consultant.

“I don’t think that will have an effect on what I do,” Hopkins said.

If you go

What: DeKalb City Council meeting

Where: DeKalb City Hall, 200 S. Fourth St., DeKalb

When: 6 p.m., Monday June 9

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