Protect Chicago BYOB

Bring Your Own Bottle, or BYOB, is a sacred term for many Chicagoans.

It means you can drink what you want on the cheap without sacrificing location or ambiance quality.

It’s something with which seemingly no Chicagoan would want to tamper – except Chicago Alderman Deborah Graham, who wants to allow aldermen to ban BYOB privileges for businesses in specific parts of their wards, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Her ordinance wouldn’t apply to restaurants, which may allay concerns for some. But Graham’s proposed regulations would mean an end to BYOB in other popular venues. Gone may be the days of being able to paint in a Chicago art studio while sharing a bottle of wine with your friends.

This isn’t the first time Graham has tried to stifle the city’s thriving BYOB culture. Last year, she proposed an ordinance that would have banned all BYOB establishments in the city’s “dry” districts (of which there are 12).

Fines for business owners in violation of these rules, under Graham’s proposal, could receive fines between $500-$1,000.

The Tribune reported that Graham’s motivation for this move may not be entirely wholesome:

“Graham's push to regulate BYOBs began just days after a Tribune story published in late September pointed out she helped lift a moratorium on new liquor licenses along a stretch of West Madison Street to clear the way for the opening of a liquor store backed by a convicted drug dealer.

“The store also got special taxing district money even though such money is not supposed to go to liquor stores. Graham said the timing of the article and her push to regulate BYOBs was a coincidence.”

Coincidence or not, it is unseemly that an alderman is willing to throw tax money at a liquor store one minute, then push to regulate BYOB the next.

Unfortunately, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office has indicated that the mayor is on board with Graham’s aims.

This proposal is a case of city government trying to fix something that’s not broken.

BYOB is one of the few business practices that is not regulated in Chicago– and it is booming. The city should quit considering actions that would hinder it.

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