Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Yard House plan to open restaurants in the Block 59 dining/entertainment complex proposed for Naperville, but only if the city lifts beer and wine portion size restrictions that prevent the two national chains from selling menu-advertised beverages.
According to Brixmor Property Group, neither restaurant will agree to be part of the development due to current restrictions, and if they pull out, other tenants, including The Cheesecake Factory, First Watch, Shake Shake and Stan’s Donuts, would also likely terminate their leases. project developer Andrew Balzer told the Naperville Liquor Commission on Thursday.
Block 59, proposed for the northwest corner of Route 59 and Aurora Boulevard and tentatively scheduled to open in 2025, is being marketed as a regional dining and entertainment hub.
Balzer said the cornerstones are Ruth’s Chris and the Yard House, but they will cancel their lease if they can’t offer the same products they sell at other locations. For Yard House, it’s “Half Yard,” a 32-ounce beer that’s part of its corporate brand identity, and for Ruth’s Chris, it’s a 9-ounce glass of wine.
Under Naperville rules, the maximum allowed serving size is 24 ounces of beer and cider, and wine is limited to 6 ounces per serving.
If any of the restaurants give up their Naperville location because of the restriction and other tenants do the same, the entire development would be in jeopardy, Balzer said.
He said neither company imposes restrictions on serving sizes at other locations, and both have received positive feedback from their communities.
Yard House has 88 locations nationwide, with Illinois restaurants located in Lombard and Glenview. Ruth’s Chris’s 134 locations include spots in Northbrook and South Barrington.
Liquor commission members said they were not concerned about allowing 9-ounce wine portions, noting that some restaurants currently sell that size, possibly because they are unaware of the limit, but they were concerned that accepting a 32-ounce glass of beer would set a precedent. and we open the door to other businesses who want the same thing.
Mayor Scott Wehrli, who serves as chairman of the liquor commission, said the city did not want to give a business an unfair advantage by approving a measure that would not benefit everyone.
The restaurant market in Naperville is highly competitive, commissioners said, and a new benchmark needs to be set for everyone so a newcomer can have something that existing establishments don’t.
“We’re here for security. We also need to focus on economic development,” said Commissioner Tony Signorella. “My concern is to set a precedent.”
Former Mayor Steve Chirico, now a commissioner, said the code was written when businesses serve 25-ounce cans of beer (the equivalent of two beers) during last call, while giving customers plenty to drink just before closing time.
Commissioners questioned whether they could impose a limit on the percentage of alcohol content served in 32-ounce beers, but acknowledged that the warning could be difficult to enforce.
Yard House mostly serves Miller Lite or Coors Light in its eponymous 32-ounce glass, neither of which have a high alcohol content, Balzer said. The half-yard option accounts for about 3% of weekday beer sales and 6% of weekend beer sales at the Lombard location, he said.
Christine Jeffries, president of the Naperville Development Partnership, said she supports the request for higher pour limits and believes bartenders and servers are properly trained to serve alcohol responsibly in Naperville.
Beyond that, he said, it’s not so much alcohol as ordering a 60-ounce pitcher of beer or margarita or a bottle of wine for the table, both of which can now be purchased legally.
“We haven’t had any chaos with these items,” Jeffries said. “I have enough confidence in Naperville and the Basset training we do here.”
Commissioners voted 5-0 to recommend increasing wine serving sizes but were divided on larger beer sizes. The second was approved by a 3-2 vote; Commissioners Kelly Douglas and Ray McGury voted against the change.
Both need approval from the Naperville City Council before becoming law. The Council will evaluate the requests in future meetings.
Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.