Catching up with the international beer news, I came across an article about a very unusual licensing situation in Chicago. East Village, a sub division of the West Town district, has something of a no-go reputation as far as alcohol goes. It has some 20 liquor moratoriums in force that basically prevent the sale of packaged liquor (off-licences to us) and the opening of any new taverns. This, perhaps not unsurprisingly, has brought them into conflict with local politician, Alderman Joe Moreno who sees part of his job to encourage new businesses.
Now, in a deal brokered by Moreno, members of the East Village Association have voted 22-5 to allow Garden Gourmet Market to sell alcohol. Nothing too unusual in that, you might think. But there is an unusual stipulation. Owner Maher Farham is allowed to sell only craft beer and high-end wine. The restrictions prohibit the sale of all spirits, non-craft beers, malt brews and fortified wines.
The measures, described as “proactive” by Moreno, are intended to allay neighbourhood fears of alcohol fuelled disorder. Farhan has assured residents that the majority of his clientele are professionals who come in after work and "buy dinner for that night" and are "asking for wine and craft beer, not hard liquor.” Such restrictions, yet to be ratified by the city liquor control commissioner, are believed to be the first of their kind in the world.
So, sensible compromise or a snob’s charter?
Could we see it enacted over here? A Tesco Express without Stella or Bud? Well I’m not going to hold my breath for Bargain Booze to fill up their shelves with the likes of Dark Star and Kernel. If only because we’re still struggling with the concept and definition of “craft” beer. Of course in Chicago they are using the term as defined by the Brewers Association. Which means stuff like Goose Island would technically not be allowed. So it’s trickier than you might think.