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Oswego Village Board may amend liquor code : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Oswego Village Board may amend liquor code
Change would permit sale of bottles, cans smaller than 16 ounces

by John Etheredge


Gas stations and convenience stores licensed to sell liquor in the Village of Oswego may soon be allowed to sell individual bottles and cans of alcoholic beverages in sizes that are 16 ounces or less.

Steve Jones, village administrator, said village staff is preparing an amendment to the village's code that would permit the sale of the smaller alcoholic beverage containers.

The board directed village staff to prepare the amendment during a committee meeting last week.

The amendment is still subject to further review and a final vote by the board.

If eventually approved by the board, the amendment would affect 10 gas stations and/or convenience stores licensed to sell packaged alcoholic beverages in the village, according to a memo prepared by Tina Touchette, village clerk.

In the memo, Touchette noted that though the village's code prohibits the sale of individual alcoholic beverages of sixteen ounces or less "it is occurring within many establishments."

In addition, she noted that since the code was last updated in 2004, "the market place for the sale of beer and wine has shifted. Single serve beverages are now routinely sold in many shapes, sizes and potency. They range from cheaper products to relatively expensive single serve craft beers."

The board previously agreed to have village staff review the current code at the request of board member Scott Volpe.

Volpe noted the Village of Carol Stream recently outlawed the sale of single bottles or cans of beer and wine at local gas stations and convenience stores, regardless of their size.

Volpe added he took an interest in the sale of individual cans and bottles of alcoholic beverages in local gas stations and convenience stores last summer.

"I saw somebody walk into a gas station on a hot summer day and buy a 12 ounce can of beer on impulse and then stand there and drink it down while he pumped gas into his car. He then got into his car and drove away," Volpe said, adding, "Now, I don't know if that guy was coming from somewhere where he had been drinking. I don't know if it's the normal thing or if he was just thirsty and it was an impulse buy, but that's what he did."

Volpe said at times people can unwittingly consume too much alcohol and questioned if by permitting the sale of single serve beer and wines at gas stations and convenience stores the village had been contributing to the problem.

Volpe added, "I just don't want to make it too easy for somebody to grab another can of beer that will put him over the (legal) limit and then go have an accident in our town with one of residents."

Volpe noted, however, that he does support the village allowing the sale of larger single serve alcoholic beverages as permitted under the existing code.

"Chances are you aren't going to be able to buy one of those big bottles and then slam that sucker down while you're walking through the Wal-Mart parking lot," he said.

Board member Gail Johnson said she believes that if someone is going to drink and drive they will do so regardless of if they purchase a single serve alcoholic beverage or a six pack.

Johnson said she also believes it should be up to village residents to decide when it is appropriate or not appropriate to drink and drive.

Referring to village residents, Johnson said, "If they want to be able to go in and buy one strawberry daiquiri or if they want to buy one can of beer to go with the a pizza that they are picking up I think they should be able to make that decision."

Board member Pam Parr said she agreed with Johnson but also understood and appreciated Volpe's concern over the sale of single serve alcoholic beverages.

Board member Terry Michels agreed the sale of single serve alcoholic beverages provide "an impulse to drink."

He added that he was also troubled to learn that several gas stations and convenience stores are currently selling single serve alcoholic beverages in containers smaller than the 16 ounce minimum size required under village code.

Michels also suggested the board might want to consider limiting the number of liquor licenses it grants to gas stations and convenience stores.

"Do we need another outlet that sells liquor?" he asked.

When questioned by board member Judy Sollinger, Police Chief Dwight Baird said village police do not keep data on the sources of a suspects' alcohol once they've been pulled over for having open alcoholic beverages or for drunken driving.

Baird added that "it would be nice" if the board would "clean up" the current ordinance by either amending it to reflect the market changes that have occurred over the past decade or by leaving it as is and actively enforcing it.

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