City council approves liquor license, budget changes

Eugene Joyce with Homestretch Bar at the Horse Palace in Evanston speaks to the city council about a liquor license request. (HERALD PHOTO/Kayne Pyatt)

EVANSTON — Three public hearings comprised the majority of time at the Evanston City Council’s regular meeting held on March 1. Two of those hearings involved retail liquor licenses and the third hearing concerned proposed modifications to the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. Permits involving alcohol sales and open container use were the other main items on the council’s agenda.

The first public hearing was to allow public comment regarding the application for transfer of the retail liquor license from Michael’s Bar & Grill, located at 1011 Front St., to the Homestretch Bar, located in the Horse Palace at 1945 Harrison Dr.

Horse Palace owner Eugene Joyce told the council that Mike Reiner plans to retire and he wanted to keep the liquor license active. City Clerk Diane Harris read a letter from Reiner, who could not attend the meeting. The letter stated that Reiner was completely in favor of the transfer. 

“Currently, our customers who wish to drink alcohol have to leave and go to the neighboring bar,” Joyce said. “Having a liquor license in our establishment will provide an economic benefit to the city and will make our customers happy.”

Councilman Tib Ottley said he was glad the license would be back in service.

Next, the council held a public hearing for the application for a transfer of a retail liquor license from the Evanston Golf Club to Fairway Restaurant and Bar, located at Purple Sage Golf Course.

Fairway Restaurant and Bar owner Stephanie Gerrard told the council, “We have taken over the restaurant and bar and want to be able to serve alcohol to customers with their food.”

There were no other comments from the public regarding either of the retail liquor license transfer so the hearings were closed. The council then approved both motions to transfer the two liquor licenses stated above.

The council approved an open container permit to Jon Pentz for the Evanston Car Show to take place Saturday, July 23, on Main Street. Pentz said he was unable to connect with Rachel Reifon from Kate’s, who typically makes the request, so he decided to ask for the permit himself to make sure the local businesses and the people attending were covered concerning alcohol use on Main Street during his car show.

Rachelle Points, the new director of Arts Inc. greeted the council and requested a limited malt beverage permit for the Celtic Festival to be held Friday-Saturday, March 18-19, at the Roundhouse and Machine Shop. The permit was approved unanimously.

City Attorney Dennis Boal opened the last public hearing regarding modifications to the budget. Treasurer Trudy Lym addressed the council and explained the changes.

“There needs to be an increase of $22,000 in the health insurance for the judicial department so we need to add that amount from the general fund reserves into the annual budget,” Lym said.

“The next two items include $150,000 for the Water Fund for the Union Center water line and $100,000 for the Wastewater Fund for the Union Center sewer line,” Lym continued. “These are both part of the economic development plan and will come from reserves. The last amount of $100,000 is part of internal service fund expense for gas and diesel charges. We have already filled the tanks three to four times, so we need to add more in the budget for the rest of the year. This will come from the various departments’ reimbursement funds.”

There were no questions or comments so the hearing was closed and the council approved a resolution authorizing the changes to the current budget and allocating the funds and expenditures to come from the special funds and departments.

The ordinance amending sections of the Evanston City Fire Code and adopting the 2021 Edition of the International Fire Code was approved on second reading and will come before the Council for a third and final reading at the next regular meeting.

The last resolution to come before the council at the March 1 meeting was presented by Evanston Community Development Director Rocco O’Neill. 

“We have a proposal from Ayres Associates, Inc., a Wyoming firm, to provide training and education to city staff and the Urban Renewal and Main Street board,” O’Neill said. “Their staff would be on-site for two days and would help us understand tax increment financing.”

Ayres Associates, Inc. proposal states they will help the city understand how tax increment financing (TIF) works, how it is collected and remitted; help to develop strategies to deploy the tax increment revenue in support of redevelopment projects; and provide education around the legal terms of blight and conditions of blight.

They will provide two post visit documents that will identify potential project areas; project maps; and identify the existing condition of key buildings. Ayres Associates estimated fee is $5,500.

The council voted unanimously to approve the proposal from Ayres Associates.

Taylor Kofoed was approved to replace Tim Lynch for the remainder of a 5-year term on the Urban Renewal Board ending January 2026.

Pentz, the car show organizer, spoke again during public comments.

“I want to give kudos to Rocco and Mieke Madrid for their friendly help to me in setting up the car show,” he said. “They do a great job for the city.” 

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