DeKALB – Only a zoning permit is standing in the way of the city of DeKalb potentially getting its first drive-thru liquor store.
The City Council approved a drive-thru package liquor store license during its meeting Monday night as proposed by Jeff Dobie of Haymaker Enterprises, which operates Fatty’s Pub and Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Highway. In order for the proposed packaged liquor store to have a drive-thru, city staff prepared an ordinance, which passed on a 7-1 vote, that would allow only packaged, sealed alcohol to be sold through the drive-thru.
First Ward Alderman David Jacobson voted against the ordinance change before the second reading was waived because it’s something the City Council has significantly restricted for years. He said there are several small business owners in the local marketplace that operated without the ability to add a drive-thru because they have been told no in the past.
Jacobson said he has no issue with more competition being allowed into the market, but he said there should be an even playing field.
“I don’t think it’s fair to allow a new competitor to come in with amenities that existing competitors don’t [have],” Jacobson said. “It hurts your existing business and works against supporting your existing businesses, as far as I’m concerned.”
Dobie approached city staff with the proposal because he wanted to build a new commercial building on the street across from Fatty’s, at 1221 W. Lincoln Highway, which currently serves as overflow parking for the bar. He said he considered the drive-thru liquor store concept for the vacant lot because it’s a weird one to begin with and the drive-thru aspect speaks to the lifestyle of the day and age.
“It just seems like our current generations are more into the comfort of, ‘Hey, let’s just go pick up a bottle of wine for dinner, we don’t have to get out of the car and we could head home,’ ” Dobie said.
Dobie said he was happy with the approval and the process going through the City Council as it’s supposed to. Also proposed for the building is a video gambling establishment, which would not share any common space or common bathrooms with the proposed package store. The City Council also voted, 6-1-1, to approve the liquor license for the video gambling space, with 7th Ward Alderman Anthony Faivre opposing video gambling in general and Jacobson recusing himself.
City Attorney Dean Frieders said the council previously has been hesitant about passing drive-thru liquor stores, but it eventually was in favor of the ordinance change and drive-thru license for the project proposed by Dobie, who wanted to use the space for something that would benefit the community economically.
“We have drive-thru liquor sales in Sycamore,” Frieders said. “We have reached out to other communities that permit this and haven’t found adverse stories coming out of it.”
Dobie said the drive-thru itself would have proper surveillance equipment, including license plate readers, high-definition video security footage and ID scanners, that would help discourage adults from buying alcohol for those who are underage.
DeKalb Police Chief Gene Lowery said the usual concern in considering drive-thru liquor stores is making sure it doesn’t make it any easier to get alcohol in the hands of minors. He said Dobie is going through some extremes in his proposal to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Lowery said he is not for or against the proposal but was there for mere advisement. But, he said, Dobie has demonstrated good behavior and cooperation with law enforcement in the past regarding liquor licenses and compliance.
“I don’t expect that to change in this situation,” Lowery said.