Medici liquor license meeting positive; all signs point to approval

As Medici Restaurant owner Kathy Morsbach, her son Paul, and 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston look on, William O’Donaghue, partner at the law firm of Daley & Georges, explains the process by which the Medici Restaurant can get a liquor license even though it is situated within 100 feet of William H. Ray School, during a meeting at the restaurant, 1327 E. 57th St., Tuesday, March 14. – Marc Monaghan

Staff Writer
The Medici On 57th, 1327 E. 7th St., held a neighborhood meeting concerning its impending application for a liquor license Tuesday, March 14.
The restaurant, which has been a Hyde Park fixture since Hans Morbach bought it in the 1960s, has always been a BYOB establishment. Kirsten Esterly explained during the meeting that “there is more competition; every new restaurant has a liquor license.”
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) opened the meeting with a short address. She said she hopes to have “good news for an establishment that’s been around for decades.”
Hairston said that she welcomed the thoughts and opinions of the neighbors had regarding the proposal.
Wiliam O’Donaghue, of the firm of Daley and Georges, who representsthe Medici, outlined the legal process whereby the Medici can obtain the license.  The problem with the Medici application is its close proximity to Ray School. State law prohibits an establishment from serving alcohol within one hundred feet of a school or certain other institutions.
According to Public Act 093-0687, “No license shall be issued for the sale at retail ofany alcoholic liquor within 100 feet of any church, school other than an institution of higher learning, hospital, homefor aged or indigent persons or for veterans, their spouses orchildren or any military or naval station, provided, that thisprohibition shall not apply to hotels offering restaurantservice, regularly organized clubs, or to restaurants, foodshops or other places where sale of alcoholic liquors is notthe principal business carried on.”

Silvia Arbelaez-Ellis, chair of the William H. Ray School Local School Council (LSC), tells a group of neighborhood residents gathered at the Medici Restaurant, 1327 E. 57th St., Tuesday, March 14, that a discussion during the last LSC meeting at the school was generally supportive of the Medici’s request to get a liquor license, and that the LSC would vote at its next scheduled meeting, April 6, to either support or not support the restaurant’s request for a liquor license. – Marc Monaghan

An establishment which wishes to obtain a variance has to do so through the state legislature.  A one page piece of legislation must be drafted, describing the school and the establishment that wishes to obtain the license but neither can be named or the special interest rule will be broken. The legislation has to also describe the neighborhood. Then the legislation has to be introduced into the House of Representatives. It is generally consolidated with similar requests from around the state and passed near the end of the session.  With State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) as the House Majority Leader O’Donaghue expressed confidence that the proposal will be introduced and passed without difficulty. He said State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13) would be co-sponsor on the Senate side.  Then, similar to a zoning request, it goes to the Governor Bruce Rauner to sign. The House and Senate have 30 days to pass it and the governor has 60 days to sign it.
O’Donaghue said it was one of the few things Rauner always went along with the Democratic leadership on.
Esterly spoke briefly about what the restaurant has in mind in terms of selling alcohol.
She said they have “no intention to have a bar” and that serving a small selection of spirits “..will just add to what the Medici is.”  
Hairston said emailing her in favor of the proposal would be a great help in demonstrating neighborhood support.
Sylvia Ellis, chairwoman of the Ray Elementary School Local School Council, also expressed support. She said that the issue had been discussed but there hasn’t been an official vote on the matter, which is necessary for approval by the State.  
She said she was confident the application would get a majority of votes. She said the Medici has always been very supportive of the school.
O’Donaghue said the proposal could be voted on as early as July 15, but that the more likely date would be some time in August.