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Montage Wine Bar and Spirits OK'd for license upgrade

MORRIS – It took two trips to Morris City Council and much convincing, but Montage Wine Bar and Spirits owners Michelle Xydakis and Ginger Hollenbeck have finally received approval to upgrade their liquor license.

The council passed an ordinance 5-2 amending their K1 liquor license during Monday's meeting. Aldermen Brian Feeney and Julian Houston voted against the ordinance. 

The amended license extends the business's operating hours to noon to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and noon until 12 a.m. on Sunday. It also allows Montage to sell whiskey by the glass while at the store or by the bottle for later consumption.

Montage's current liquor license only allows for the sale of wine by the glass or by the bottle.

Xydakis assured council members that the store will only be selling high-end, artisan-crafted whiskey products and not the same whiskey products sold in liquor stores.

Originally, at the last city council meeting, the Montage owners applied for a Class A liquor license which is a full-bar and packaged liquor license, but were denied after much pushback from the council.

Despite passing, the amended license still concerned some aldermen who thought it did not impose strict enough limits on the business. 

In the first draft, the ordinance allowed Montage to sell "small-batch spirit products" but Feeney felt the term was too vague.

"With this, you'll be not different than a liquor store," alderman Brian Feeney told Xydakis during Judiciary and License Committee meeting held prior to the council Monday. "There's really no restriction in here on what you can and can't sell."

As a result, the ordinance wording was changed before passage, with "whiskey" replacing the term "small-batch spirit products." 

Xydakis said they do not plan to have a large inventory of whiskey on hand.

"We're not going to have shelves of spirits by any means," she said. "The only reason we would want this is if someone tried it and wanted to purchase it as a gift."

As far as enforcement the license, Morris Police Chief Brent Dite said his officers should be able to distinguish whiskey from other alcohols. 

"I don't really see this as problematic from my perspective as an enforcer," he told the committee.

Xydakis said the license is needed for the business to expand and better serve its customers.

"The evolution of the business has had an impact on the community in a positive way," she told the committee. "We get people coming from Chicago and all over. At that point, it does generate foot traffic for the downtown area."

Other action

Also during Monday's meeting, the council approved the annual budget ordinance and wage schedule for fiscal year 2015 after holding a public hearing where few objections were raised.

The council also approved a recommendation to reduce the automatic 6 percent sewer and water rate increase to 3 percent for fiscal year 2015.

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