Tap Room hearing lasts 3.5 hours, suspensions until July 26

The long-delayed hearing on the status of Forest Park Tap Room’s liquor license began but didn’t quite end on July 22.

At the start of the hearing, Tap Room lawyer Mark Johnson said he could not bring several of his witnesses, including bar co-owner Hansel Law, to the hearing. With most of the village witnesses and one tap room witness already there, the two parties agreed to have those witnesses testify and the other witnesses to testify at a later date. Mayor Rory Hoskins, Forest Park’s liquor commissioner, said he didn’t want to drag the case out too long, and both sides agreed to resume the hearing on July 26 at 10 a.m.

During Friday’s hearing, which lasted approximately 3.5 hours, Forest Park officers testified about disruptive behavior by customers and incidents of belligerent customers and co-owners towards police. The village also brought in a police officer from Berwyn to testify about similar issues at the Berwyn Tap Room, 6330 16th St., a bar where Forest Park Tap Room owners are the majority. For its part, Tap Room brought in Robert Harrison, a Western Michigan University marketing professor who is a friend of the owners, who testified that he visits Forest Park Tap Room once or twice a month and n ‘ve seen none of the problems that the village describes.

Forest Park Tap Room, 7321 Madison St., is co-owned by brothers Lance and Hansel Law, who have also co-owned Berwyn Tap Room since 2019. Since opening in Forest Park on October 23, 2020, the bar has faced many multiple complaints about loud music, fights, and violation of COVID-19 mitigation limits in place at the time. These alleged actions resulted in three liquor license suspensions. In August 2021, Hoskins revoked the license after the bar allegedly remained open after closing, but the Illinois State Liquor Control Board overturned it on appeal.

When Tap Room’s liquor license was up for renewal in May, Forest Park Police Chief Kevin Gross filed a lawsuit asking Hoskins not to renew Tap Room’s liquor license. He cited previous complaints, as well as the brothers who allegedly lied to the village on several occasions. While the owners said they had never had any problems at Berwyn Tap Room, the complaint cited a subsequent Forest Park Review investigation which found numerous calls to the police and a liquor license suspension at Berwyn to prove otherwise.

The hearing was postponed several times. The June 8 hearing was canceled after the court reporter challenged the journal reporter’s recording of the meeting. Since then, the hearing has been postponed twice due to witness availability issues and one of the Law brothers has contracted COVID-19. In the meantime, Tap Room remains open even though its liquor license is in limbo pending the outcome of the hearing.

At the July 22 hearing, village attorney Sharon O’Shea attempted to argue that Forest Park had tried to be helpful and that the Law brothers had not done enough to resolve the issues. Former village administrator Tim Gillian testified that the village had fast-tracked Tap Rom’s liquor license application and offered to work directly with the owners. Detective Lt. Pete Morrissette, who did background checks on the brothers as part of the liquor license application process, testified that he gave them advice on solving common problems faced by bar owners – a common practice among all candidates.

Johnson argued that Forest Park had it for its customers from the start, pointing to an email from health and safety director Steve Glinke expressing reservations about allowing a bar as the village was trying to get away from that aspect of Madison’s businesses. Street. Gillian said he encouraged the administrators to give their honest opinions and noted that the liquor license application was approved anyway.

sergeant. Dan Pater, who is on the midnight crew and was involved in the allegations at the center of the failed attempt to revoke the license, said he had fielded a number of calls about “customers at the bar after hours, loud music, noise complaints, things like that.”

“Each time, in dealing with the Law brothers, the communication has been less than cooperative and quite argumentative each time,” he said.

Pater said that when he closed the bar where patrons allegedly drank after hours, Hansel Law insulted him. In another instance, while responding to a noise complaint, Lance Law “came in and said nobody was talking to me, and go away, and we’re harassing his business.”

“He seemed extremely agitated that I was near their business,” Pater said.

sergeant. John Reilly, who also works the midnight shift, recalled a similar confrontation with Lance Law over a separate noise complaint.

“Mr Law accused me of being racist, that I was going after the bar because of the racial makeup of the bar owners and we had nothing better than us,” he said.

Reilly testified that while most fights happen outdoors, in his experience they tend to start indoors. And, in response to questions from Johnson, said crowd size alone could not explain the number of complaints.

“Mugsy’s has the most customers, especially lately. Doc Ryan’s also usually has a big crowd,” Reilly said. “I would say the majority of calls and complaints are directed to the Forest Park Tap Room.”

Both officers testified that the police try to be mindful of their presence, as customers tend to react negatively to the police, which only escalates volatile situations.

Johnson asked if either officer had definitive proof that the fighting really started inside and asked if any of them had seen anyone at the bar encouraging the breaking of the law . Both officers said no.

sergeant. John Fitzpatrick, who oversees the night shift at Berwyn, testified that the Berwyn Tap Room was cited seven times for serving alcohol after hours and that they received a total of 107 calls related to the bar, including eight loud noise complaints, 35 reports. of fights and disturbances, and five reports of armed clients.

Harrison, the Tap Room’s only witness, said he knew the brothers and visited the Forest Park Tap Room whenever he was in the area, averaging once or twice a month. . Harrison said that while he saw “minor infractions”, he did not see the type of behavior described by the officers.

In response to Johnson’s questions, Harrison said bar patrons tended to be “people of color, which I think might be the problem here.”

“[Forest Park Tap Room is a kind of] place where friends get together, have a few drinks, laugh,” he said. “That’s what I think about when I get there.”

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