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New Asian Restaurant Runs into Liquor License Problem

Owner of new Shorewood sushi bar could have to swallow a $10,000 cost for license.

The plan is to offer customers a full liquor bar when Asian restaurant and sushi bar opens its doors on North Oakland Avenue in October.

Owner Nick Zheng's only problem: It could cost him as much as $10,000 for the liquor license.

Zheng’s new venture at 4511 N. Oakland Ave., a few storefronts south of , is one of the many new shops, restaurants and bars that have revived the village’s business district, and many are seeking a Class B liquor license, which allows an establishment to serve hard liquor, beer and wine.

When opened May 17, it was issued the village’s 14th and last $600 Class B license. State law allots municipalities a set number of Class B licenses for issuance and some reserve Class B liquor licenses based on its population, which are required to be sold for no less than $10,000.

So, if NaNa wants to open with a full bar, it would have to purchase one of Shorewood's eight reserve licenses. The $10,000 cost of the license is a one-time charge and the license can be renewed annually for $600.

It might well be Zheng’s fault, as he should have researched the issue prior to signing a lease and starting construction on the interior of his new restaurant, village officials said at a Community Development Authority meeting Friday.

"As much as we want to encourage businesses, it's not our place to take care of people's mistakes," said Trustee Jeff Hanewall.

Zheng told Patch Tuesday he plans to pay the $10,000 for the license, but said village officials told him there is a chance he could be reimbursed.

At the CDA meeting, officials discussed pocketing the $10,000, but also kicked around some ways of softening the blow to Zheng and his new sushi bar.

In the past, some villages and cities have waived the fee or provided economic development grants in the amount of the license, Village Clerk Sherry Grant said. Mimicking what other municipalities have done could help protect Shorewood from ligation, CDA member John Florsheim said.

Village Manager Chris Swartz said staff would have to work on a new policy, which could take months, before it would issue any grants. 

With no policy in place for this issue, Hanewall said his knee-jerk reaction is Zheng has to play by the rules of today.

"If we could clearly justify (a grant), maybe I'd go along with it," Hanewall said.

Shorewood also has three wine-only licenses available and while it has issued all of its beer-only licenses, the Village Board has the authority to add some licenses through an ordinance.

"If we want to increase beer licenses so that businesses can combine with the wine, we can do that as part of our overall policy," Swartz said.

However, Zheng would have to exclude hard liquor from this bar, which Plaisted argued is a large part of the alcohol market nowadays.

Trustee Ellen Eckman said this is a broader issue than just NaNa's because this could adversely affect how prospective business developers and owners view Shorewood.

That point was also made by Business Improvement District Executive Director Jim Plaisted.

“We need to address this if we want to continue to bring attractive, quality restaurants here to Shorewood,” he said.

Zheng and co-owner Ka Bo Wong are the third generation of restaurant owners in their family. Their relatives have opened various types of Asian fusion restaurants in New York, California and Florida including a chain called Wild Ginger.

CowDung September 14, 2011 at 06:48 PM
I have had no issues with their service in the new location, but I agree that the food quality is way below what it was at the west of Oakland location. I guess that just goes to prove that the Westies are just superior to us East Siders...
David Tatarowicz September 14, 2011 at 06:51 PM
It is laughable and sad that Shorewood Officials want to lay all the blame on the restaurant owners for this license mess. Of course it is the restaurant owner's responsibility to make sure that they get the license --- but Shorewood has been bragging about how they are "business friendly" and want to bring new business to the Village. The BID's mission is partly to do that -- and the CDA is also a part. In my experience in running a business in Shorewood and owning business property, the Village lacks any co-ordination within its operations to properly assist businesses in getting established. There is NO one center of information or help --- you have to bounce around between the Building and Permit Dept, the Clerk's Office, the Health Department, the Police Dept, possibly the Planning and Design Board,............................. And none of those departments tell you if you are missing or need something from one of the others. There should be an Ombudsman assigned to any and all new businesses, and existing businesses that want to expand -- to make sure they know what is required and help them through the process. A reasonable person might think that the BID would already be doing that --- but a reasonable person would be wrong -- the BID mainly serves as a revenue source for its director, in my opinion.
Absolutelyfabulous September 14, 2011 at 06:57 PM
It's interesting to hear about the decline of the food quality. I had a Groupon for the Milwaukee/Grafton Ale House and headed to Grafton. This was after NSB took over operations. I couldn't believe that this was supposed to be an improvement over what the Ale House owners had been serving out of the kitchen. The portions were ridiculously small/ food was extremely bland/Ravioli seemed like it was pre-frozen/pasta-dried/salad consisted of greens + 2 grape tomatoes cut in 1/2 + a few slivers of carrot and cucumber. Complete joke all around, though the server was very nice and courteous. The food was ridiculous, but the space was great and since I don't drink I couldn't speak for the beer/drinks but the place was hopping on a friday eve over looking the brown Milwaukee River. I took Groupon up on their offer of being 100% satisfied or money back. They refunded my money very promptly. No questions asked and we very nice about it. Used a Groupon the other day for Pasta Tree. What a world of difference. Loved what I had and the servers couldn't have been nicer w/ the restaurant swamped and lines out the door. Once you have fresh made pasta and home made bread/soups..there's no turning back.
Gregg September 14, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Why not differentiate licenses based not on what is served, but what kind of business it is. If it's simply a liquor store or just a bar with no food, then sure I see the merit on limiting those licenses, but if it's a restaurant I don't see why we should limit liqour licenses for them.
Bob McBride September 14, 2011 at 09:34 PM
I think you just made Lyle's and Joe's day there, Cowdung.

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