Beer gardens, BYOB helps mixed crowd

Nick Stroman

Restaurants and bars in Morton are hoping the catchphrase from a 1980s baseball movie will translate into customers filling the seats.

“If you build it, they will come.”

Or in the case of some of the businesses: come inside, but bring your own.

The Morton Village Board approved an amended ordinance last March which allows restaurants and bars to pursue outdoor eating, seating and drinking venues — or beer gardens.

The ordinance also offered the option to allow customers to bring their own bottle of wine and beer to an establishment with a Class G license — or BYOB.

Before the amendment, restaurant and bar owners only had the option to pursue temporary beer garden licenses.

Those licenses were only valid for seven days once every two months.

So, with the ordinance in effect since May, are customers responding to the changes and causing business to boom?

Cristy Delicath of Cristy’s Tea Room on South Main Street said she pursued the BYOB license rather than outdoor serving because they host many private parties and special dinners.

Delicath said customers have asked about the business offering wine in the past.

“As of this date, no one has taken advantage of our license,” Delicath said.

Katie Jacob of Eli’s Coffee on West Jefferson Street also was planning on going the BYOB route, but ended up not doing it because of the physical changes to her business the license required.

“I found out that I would have to put up a 4-foot tall fence. Because of the setbacks required by the city, the fence would cut my back patio in half and look awkward,” Jacob said.

Jacob said she also felt the application fee plus the cost of the fence, re-landscaping and annual fee would not be worth it in the end.

“What I didn’t realize was there was an indoor only BYOB option. I may apply for that this fall,” Jacob said.

Jacob added Eli’s is currently going through other great improvements, including expanding their catering and menu.

“I want to focus on that right now, rather than BYOB,” Jacob said.

Bill Ingold, owner of Red Rock Bar and Grille on Detroit Avenue, applied for a beer garden license and said it has been a work in progress for his business ever since.

Ingold had previously installed chain link fences and a concrete divider between the parking lot and outdoor facility to achieve a make-shift beer garden look and smoking area.

The chain link fences have since had a wrought iron fence added on top of it to achieve the height requirement for a beer garden and the concrete barrier has been poured with a brick façade to help with the overall aesthetics.

“We still have some cosmetic work to do. For now, we just wanted to get it open and make sure it’s safe. We’re working on getting custom outdoor tables out there and looking at the possibility of a TV too,” Ingold said.

Ingold said the new area has been very well-received, but the weather has played a role in their turnout.

“If it’s too rainy or too hot, it’s not real busy. The last two weeks we’ve had people really wanting to be outside and enjoy the nice evening weather. That first week we were open with it, though, it was like 100 degrees and smoking hot,” Ingold said.

“It takes time for some customers to notice it, and we still have things to finish. But, it’s open and okayed, and that’s what we were really after,” Ingold added.

Other Morton bars and restaurants which have recently applied for the amended beer garden licenses include Mullen’s Irish Pub and Schooner’s.