A late-night liquor permit for Empire at Ballydoyle, a new downtown restaurant and bar, was approved by Naperville City Council Tuesday.
Readers React: Late-Night Liquor Permit for Ballydoyle?
Council members voted to approve an ordinance that increases the number of late-night liquor permits from 18 to 19 for the family-friendly restaurant, which hopes to open by December at the former Rosebud Italian Restaurant 48 W. Chicago Ave.
But the additional permit wasn't passed with ease, or unanimously.
Mayor George Pradel was the only dissenting vote Tuesday, citing safety concerns as well as Ballydoyle's policy of allowing minors into the restaurant after 9 p.m., if they are accompanied by an adult.
Pradel, who is the city's liquor commissioner, said the city will take a close look at the issue before signing off on the license.
"Before I sign the liquor license, I will make sure that if there is restrictions we will put restrictions on it, but we will research it very thoroughly before we do that," Pradel said.
While Naperville police said they have curbed downtown incidents as of late, Police Chief Bob Marshall said that the addition of any new bar would be a "tipping point" for the department in terms of enforcement efforts.
"First of all, even without Ballydoyle, the police department doesn't have enough resources to police the downtown," Chief Marshall said Tuesday.
He added that the department would be able to hire new officers, which takes roughly eight to 10 months.
Salaries for each additional officer would be about $69,000, according to the city. To cover the cost, the city is considering applying for a Community Oriented Policing-Services (COPS) federal grant, which pays for 75 percent of an officer's salary for three years. The remaining 25 percent is paid for by the city.
Many council members also echoed concerns about safety in the downtown area, including underage drinking.
"I'm going to reluctantly support it," Councilman Grant Wehrli said. "But I want that to be known to the developer and to the police force that there will be tight reigns here."
Phil Cullen, the owner of Ballydoyle, addressed concerns Tuesday and said safety is a top priority for the restaurant.
"We put a lot of responsibility on our staff and on the people coming in," Cullen said. "And if they don't follow the rules, then they are gone."
At Cullen's three other Ballydoyle locations, customers over the age of 21 receive a stamp on their hand and those under 21 receive a bracelet and a separate marking on their hand, he said. Cullen plans to implement the same policy at the Naperville location.
Similar to its three suburban locations, Empire would offer burgers, craft beer, rooftop seating, live music and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Some council members were also pleased that Cullen was willing to renovate the 100-year-old building at 48 W. Chicago Ave. for Empire, considering that it has been vacant for three years after being severely damaged during a fire.
"We have here one establishment that comes in with a challenging property who's going to make a substantial investment, even after the flood, and he's still willing to step up to the plate," said Councilman Doug Krause. "He's a responsible operator."
Councilman Wehrli said whether Empire is the tipping point for the downtown area or not, the city has to be cautious and must maintain a healthy retail/restaurant mix.
"It's like walking up to the Grand Canyon, you're not just going to go running up there and stop all of the sudden. You're going to creep up on it, take a look over, make sure you're footing's sound," Wehrli said. "I mean we can't let downtown fault, we just can't."