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DeKalb city council supports allowing minors into bars

Hookah bar owners says he wishes to offer BYOB alcohol as option for failing revenue

DeKALB – While the city council is largely in support of allowing minors under the age of 21 into bars, some council members wish to do a more thorough review of the entire liquor municipal code and votes regarding changes will take place at a future meeting.

"I think just a general review of our liquor code in an entirety would be a value to us," said Ward 6 Alderman Mike Verbic Monday.

Verbic, like much of the council Monday, supported all three liquor code-related measures up for consideration: allowing minors 19 and older into bars to aid food sales, providing BYOB (Bring your own beverage) liquor licenses to establishments who wish to allow patrons to bring their own alcohol to consume on site, and providing a liquor license to fitness center owners who wish to complement smoothie bars with alcohol.

Chapter 38 of the DeKalb Municipal Code "Intoxicating Liquors" currently prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from entering certain establishments in the city, but proposed amendments could soon allow people 19 years of age or older to dine in designated areas for restaurant sales, separate from any area used for bar sales.

Cameron Dye, one of four owners of Aroma's Hookah Bar, 811 W. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb, across from the DeKalb Police Department, said he's hoping to obtain a BYOB license for his hookah lounge to provide smokers the opportunity to drink to aid falling clientele numbers.

"Our business has slowed down drastically to the point where we think if no change is made we will not be in business come the end of the year," Dye said.

Ward 1 Alderman Carolyn Morris and City Manager Bill Nicklas said they think younger generations may not be as interested in drinking as older ones, and businesses are looking to offer alcohol as an option but keep alternative options such as food or smoking to prop up revenue.

Dye said he would mimic other establishments that have dual licenses, such as ones in Naperville and Chicago, and charge $4 to $5 per person who wish to bring their own alcohol and drink while smoking inside.

The council also deliberated on how to designate those underage from those of drinking age if both are allowed in bars.

"Do the patrons at 21 or over have wristbands?" Ward 2 Alderman Bill Finucane said. "It's easy enough to take off."

"When I was a young Marine, they drew giant X's on our hands with permanent marker," Morris said.

Interim DeKalb Police Chief John Petragallo said his staff are compiling a report of similar-sized cities that have allowed the same.

"We're conducting some outreach to other municipalities to basically gauge the impact on them," Petragallo said. "Not only for public safety but for operational necessities."

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