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Council member wants to deny valet license renewals to Chicago bars

“There is no reasonable explanation for issuing valet permits to serve taverns and nightclubs that have built a business model around bottle service and rounds of shots,” said Ald. Brendan Reilly, whose goal is to prevent patrons of Chicago’s lively bar scene from driving home drunk.

A valet parking sign.
If you don’t serve food, you shouldn’t have a valet parking license, said Ald. Brendan Reilly. “There is no reasonable explanation for issuing valet permits to serve taverns and nightclubs that have built a business model around bottle service and rounds of shots,” Reilly said Thursday.
Sun-Times file

Last winter, downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) was waiting outside a River North Bar for friends inside to give him a ride home after a night of drinking when he was suddenly attacked by two men in what Reilly called a case of mistaken identity.

Now, Reilly is proposing a valet parking crackdown that just might prevent someone else from being similarly attacked and, more importantly, prevent patrons of Chicago’s lively bar scene from driving home drunk.

At Thursday’s City Council meeting, Reilly introduced an ordinance stating: “No valet parking operator license or renewal thereof shall be issued to any person for the purpose of providing a valet parking service at any establishment that holds or is required to hold a tavern license.”

The only exceptions: hotels and businesses that hold or are required to hold a tavern and consumption on premises or incidental license.

In an email to the Sun-Times, Reilly said “everyone understands” why restaurants rely heavily on valet parking services. It’s a “convenience for people dining out,” he said.

But, he wrote: “Given Illinois’ DUI laws, I do not understand why the city would encourage people to drive to and from taverns and nightclubs that don’t offer food. The only product being consumed there is alcohol — and usually lots of it. ... There is no reasonable explanation for issuing valet permits to serve taverns and nightclubs that have built a business model around bottle service and rounds of shots.”

Pat Doerr, managing director of the Hospitality Business Association of Chicago, said he is “unaware of any research that connects the kind of liquor license” Reilly wants to target and prevent from renewing its valet parking license to an “elevated risk of drunk driving.”

He pointed to the “boom in ride-share use by bar and restaurant patrons.”

“We oppose every city restriction that lacks any kind of objective basis. I mean — there’s no basis I’m aware of for anything to support this,” Doerr said.

“There are absolutely problem licensees who should be strictly regulated and denied those opportunities and those permits. But it’s not an across-the-board situation. The Hospitality Association would fully support any effort to limit valet and loading zone services for problem licensees that are well along in the city’s nuisance licensee process.”

Drunk driving wasn’t Reilly’s only legislative target. So was boat noise.

He introduced yet another ordinance stating: “No person operating a vessel, craft or float on the Chicago River, on the Ogden Slip or within the breakwater of the Chicago Harbor north of a line extending east into Lake Michigan from E. Grand Ave. shell employ any device that creates or amplifies sound.”

That includes loudspeakers, bullhorns, amplifiers, public address systems, musical instruments, radios or any other device that plays recorded music louder than “average conversational level at a distance of 10 or more feet” measured vertically or horizontally.

Reilly was forced to suspend the rules to rescue both of his ordinances — and a slew of others, including budget amendments — from the Rules Committee, where legislation opposed by the mayor normally goes to die.

The rescue became necessary after Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), one of the mayor’s most outspoken Council critics, blocked every item introduced by his colleagues to retaliate for the brick being placed on his efforts to empower the Council to hire its own attorney and raise the threshold for speed cameras.

“Madame President, I’d like to move to re-refer all of the items just sent to the Rules Committee to their originally-assigned committee,” Reilly said.

When Lightfoot banged the gavel to affirm the move, Beale rose in protest.

“Our rules state that, when you send something to Rules, it has to go to the Rules Committee. You cannot change the rules once again to suit yourself,” Beale told Lightfoot.

“There needs to be a Rules Committee [meeting]. That has been our procedure. It has been that way since the beginning of time. And we are, once again, changing the rules. That motion is totally out of order.”

Reilly acknowledged Beale had correctly stated the rules. But, he added: “This body voted to suspend the rules to allow for that motion. And that motion was approved.”

The mayor upheld that ruling.

The City Council also approved Lightfoot’s appointment of Cole Stallard as Streets and Sanitation commissioner and Aileen Velazquez as chief procurement officer. But a final vote was deferred on the mayor’s plan to empower the Chicago Police Board to hear appeals from people who want their names removed from the Chicago Police Department’s error-plagued gang database.