Winnetka council puts cork in Hometown Coffee’s liquor request until future meeting
The Village of Winnetka has 18 variations of liquor licenses available to applicants, and Hometown Coffee & Juice does not fit any of them.
To make it fit, at the Village Council meeting Monday, Sept. 20, Winnetka Police Chief Marc Hornstein suggested a pair of amendments to the village code to accommodate Hometown’s business model.
The changes would allow Hometown to sell hard liquor as early as 9 a.m., a concept that sparked questions by a number of trustees and led to Village President Chris Rintz tabling the discussion to seek more information.
“They are nowhere near opening. We have a little time on this,” said Rintz, who is also the village’s liquor commissioner. “I would rather reach out to the owner and see what their intentions are. That way I can bring it back to you guys and we can have reasonable deliberations.
“Without them to answer hard questions, (it is) difficult for us to wrap our heads around.”
Hometown Coffee & Juice debuted in Glencoe in 2018. Last year, it announced plans to open a second location at the northeast corner of Lincoln and Elm streets in Winnetka — the former storefronts of Cafe Aroma and Trueman Catering.
Initially, Hometown hoped for a spring opening but have been delayed through the summer. In an Instagram post Sept. 16, Hometown said it was “excited” to open the Winnetka location this fall.
In Glencoe, Hometown serves alcoholic beverages to complement its expansive menu of coffee drinks, cold-pressed juices, teas and smoothies. The restaurant also features a breakfast and lunch menu. Hornstein said the restaurant plans to mimic the business model in Winnetka.
The village’s Class F liquor license covers coffee shops; however, it only allows beer and wine sales and only after 5 p.m.
Hornstein said there are no Class F liquor licenses currently held within Winnetka. Previously, Starbucks carried one but allowed it to expire, he said.
Hornstein recommended the council approve two amendments — to include the sale of hard liquor and to allow for it as early as 9 a.m. — so that Hometown’s model could fit within the Class F designation.
Hornstein explained that his 9 a.m. recommendation aligns with other village restaurants that hold different liquor classifications.
“They want the ability to sell cocktails,” Hornstein said. “They do offer food. So the rationale in my recommendation to move it to 9 a.m. is that is what we allow restaurants to do now. You can go to a restaurant … and could be served at 9 a.m.”
Winnetka trustees were hesitant to take action.
Addressing trustee concerns, Hornstein said that Hometown’s alcohol sales account for roughly 3 percent of the total sales at its Glencoe store, while coffee and nonalcoholic beverages account for more than 60 percent of the total.
Trustees discussed the difference between a coffee shop and other local restaurants.
Hornstein explained that liquor licenses are approved for one year and then reviewed, and any negative feedback, such as noise or nuisance complaints, would factor into a renewal.
“From a public safety perspective, I am not concerned about it,” he said.
Rintz, though, did express concern about the precedent the council is setting for Winnetka, which was a dry community until the 1980s, according to the Winnetka Historical Society.
“I’m not comfortable with this at all,” he said. “ … The fact is it could devolve into something we really don’t care for. I remember a time where nobody could drink anything in this town. These incremental changes are significant sometimes.”
With the support of trustees, Rintz pushed to defer the conversation to a later meeting after he brought back information from Hometown.
“I am not sensing overall opposition; I am just sensing we don’t understand all the things at play here,” he said. “Liquor licenses still are a big deal in this town to a certain degree and want to make sure we are doing the right thing.”
Hometown ownership did not immediately respond to a message from The Record.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319