Hinsdale further distances itself from 'dry' years

HINSDALE – Hinsdale may never be considered Homer Simpson’s idea of a watering hole, but from where it was to where it is now, the evolution of a once completely dry village has been a gradual, yet dramatic change.

With one local wine shop celebrating a milestone anniversary and a new full-service restaurant expected to open soon, Hinsdale’s odyssey with alcohol continues.

No blind pigs allowed

Everyone is familiar with the failed experiment that took place in the United States from 1920 to 1933 known as prohibition – a national ban on the sale, production and transportation of alcohol. But according to newspaper archives from the Hinsdale Historical Society, Hinsdale residents voted to become a dry town four years before the 18th Amendment was passed.

The outcry against alcohol started as early as 1878 when “blind pigs,” which were illegal drinking establishments, were sought out, shut down and patrons were arrested.

Even the Graue Mill in Oak Brook (back then it was considered a part of Hinsdale, or at that time Fullersburg) was used for more than being a popular destination for field trips and education; it was used as a place to make moonshine.

“I’ve heard that the sheriff locked it up a couple times,” said miller John Marshall. “The Graue family sold this mill in 1921. They sold it to a land owner who in turn leased it to other users. Some of those users he didn’t care whether they were legal or not.”

The mill was eventually leased to Steven Abel, who operated the mill for the purpose of bootlegging liquor, and supplemented his income, but was arrested in 1928 for “moonshining and running bootlegging parties at the mill,” according to Graue Mill history.

“We try and stay out of trouble here now,” Marshall said with a laugh.

In 1934, a year after prohibition nationally was abolished, Hinsdale residents voted again to remain dry.

‘The more the better’

Prohibition was eventually appealed in Hinsdale about 12 years ago thanks to a referendum and a growing want for restaurants to be able to sell alcohol with a meal to attract more business. However, that doesn’t mean residents will see “bars” or liquor stores anytime soon.

“The notion of a packaged liquor store, it’s a prohibited use,” said Hinsdale Economic Development Director Tim Scott.

In fact, looking at the zoning map of Hinsdale, the closest liquor store to the village is Savway Liquors, 3821 York Road, Oak Brook. Its neighbor, McDonald’s, is located just a few feet away at 935 North York Road, which is in Hinsdale. North of Savway is the Graue Mill and passed that it becomes Hinsdale again, according to the zoning map.

But Scott said the village does have a few full-service restaurants and wine boutiques.

The owner of the Hinsdale Wine Shop, Sean Chaudhry, opened his doors on Aug. 15, 2003, a couple years after the village overturned prohibition. This past August, he celebrated his 10th anniversary in the village.

Chaudhry said he would “absolutely” like to see more liquor establishments in town as it’s not only good for business, but for the town as well.

“The more the better because that draws more people in,” Chaudhry said. “Hinsdale has come along too and it has restaurants opening up so I think we’re getting there now.”

Scott said the objective is to remain a quiet family orientated town, but by the village offering more full-service restaurants, it’s about offering more consumer choice and giving residents the option of staying in town when they want a night out.

Hinsdale Police Chief Brad Bloom has spent almost 28 years with the police department and has served as chief since 2002. From his standpoint, he said the evolution of full-service restaurants in the village has had “little impact on public safety.”

“I haven’t seen an increase in the number of DUIs that I could attribute to the availability of alcohol and the village’s issuance of liquor licenses,” Bloom said.

Future: More in moderation

Hinsdale became incorporated in 1873, but at that time the area was known by several names, including Fullersburg, named after Benjamin Fuller. Grace Pekar, former manager of the Hinsdale Historical Society, said Fuller owned a lot of property in the area.

Years later, a descendant of Benjamin Fuller, Doug Fuller, is now looking to open a full-service restaurant in town furthering the Fuller name with Fuller’s Tap & Grill, tentatively set to open in December or January. Fuller said the inclusion of full-service restaurants has been good for the town, especially bringing people in at night.

“[The village] monitors it really close with the times to close down and it just lets people in town enjoy a drink,” Fuller said.

Fuller said for years he has been hearing from residents who wanted to see a full-service restaurant in town with a sports theme and reasonably priced.

“I just think it’s a nice regular place to go where you can meet friends in a beautiful town and watch the ballgame,” Fuller said.

Scott said the gradual change to allow full-service restaurants in town has bolstered the central business district, but as far as bars and liquor stores appearing in town, Scott said he did not see that happening anytime soon.

For a restaurant to get a liquor license, establishments have to get approval from the village board and the liquor commissioner, which is the village president, Tom Cauley.

“Could you see bars or liquor stores sprouting up in town?” Cauley was asked during a board meeting last month.

“No,” Cauley said.