Chicago/ Politics & Govt
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Published on April 12, 2024
Highland Park Battle Over Liquor License Law Pits Business Against City Council RegulationsSource: Teemu008 from Palatine, Illinois, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Highland Park is at a standoff over its liquor license laws as the community and business owners call for change. At a recent City Council meeting, authorities expanded liquor licenses, allowing more businesses like spas and hotels to sell booze. But they didn't budge on an old rule barring liquor license holders from sitting as council members or working in law enforcement, as per the Chicago Tribune.

The contentious law was thrust into the limelight when City Council member and Ravinia Brewing co-owner Jeff Hoobler had to choose: his council seat or his business. With a looming resignation date of April 30, the debate has intensified. The Illinois Restaurant Association and the local business community have pushed to swiftly change the law, calling it "archaic" and a barrier to civic involvement. They're not looking to back down any time soon, ready to fight to freely participate in their local government.

Amidst the clash, Councilmember Annette Lidawer tried, and failed, to postpone the vote in hopes of a full review on April 24. "It's the balance of the expansion of business with the further muffling of voices, and I find that very disturbing," Lidawer stated during the meeting. Mayor Nancy Rotering and other council members opposing the change cite conflict of interest concerns, arguing the current law ensures decisions are made in the community's best interest.

Residents aren't remaining silent on this issue - a wave of emails and public comments have poured in supporting the change. "This ordinance takes that decision out of my hands and it's fundamentally undemocratic," local resident Linda Feinstein said in a WBBM NEWSRADIO interview. The law, a relic of prohibition days, simply doesn't jive with today's civic landscape. Residents argue it's time to shed the outdated restrictions and embrace a more inclusive government.

The topic is to again surface at the council meeting on April 24, with many eyeing it as a crucial moment for Highland Park's democratic future. Councilmember Lidawer is determined to keep the momentum going until a change is made. "In addition to hurting our community on a daily basis, our business-friendly image to the outside world, we are also hurting the councilmember who is not sitting next to me today," she expressed fervently at the meeting. The clock is ticking as stakeholders await the council's next move.