Rejecting the pleas of tavern owners the village council voted 4-0 Monday night to increase the licensing fee by 37 percent for bars and liquor stores, while Mayor Anthony Calderone scolded those who labeled the hike as unfair.
The fee increase was proposed by Calderone who also serves, by law, as the liquor commissioner, and actually represents a $200 discount on the fee hike initially proposed earlier this month. The licensing fee for bars and liquor stores, which is the most expensive class of liquor license, will increase from $1,312.50 to $1,800.
Before the vote Marty Sorice, the owner of Blueberry Hilly, Short Stop Lounge, and Circle Inn told the council that times were tough in the bar business.
“We are in the worst economy I’ve seen in 25 years,” said Sorice who also termed the fee increase as “Strogeresque.”
Commissioner Mike Curry bristled at the comparison to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, who has been criticized for recent tax increases. Curry pointed out that the village had not increased its fees for liquor licenses in more than a decade.
Curry suggested phasing in the increase over two years, but Calderone objected vehemently and said the village has historically gone out of its way to accommodate bar owners. The village schedules its St. Patrick’s Day parade two weeks ahead of the March 17 holiday specifically to help generate business for bar owners, said the mayor.
“It was done intentionally to give the business owners on Madison Street two St. Patrick’s days,” Calderone said. “Two times to have a big whoopin’ party on Madison Street …. We did this for the business community.”
Calderone, his voice rising, told the bar owners they’ve had it pretty good in Forest Park. The fee increase approved March 24 will cost bar owners an additional $40.62 a month.
“I know our economy is down here a little bit, but hang on a second folks,” Calderone said. “All these years we haven’t increased the fees, but you’ve had two whacks at the apple for St. Patrick’s Day, right, for the 14 years or whatever it is. Maybe you should have all been saving a little money; getting yourself prepared for the day we’re going to increase the fees on the liquor licenses. We’re talking about $40.62 a month for the most expensive license. I’m sorry. If $40 a month is going to put a business out of business in Forest Park, you’ve got to question whether or not they should be in business.”
To give some relief to liquor license holders the council voted 4-0 to approve an amendment offered by Commissioner Rory Hoskins to allow liquor license holders to pay the fee in two equal installments due May 1 and Nov. 1.
Commissioner Mark Hosty was absent from the meeting.
Commissioner Marty Tellalian offered up several changes to the mayor’s proposal, none of which were approved. First, Tellalian proposed reducing the fee for the A-2 license for restaurants from $1,600 to $1,400 and the A-3 license, which allows the sale of wine and beer only in restaurants, from $1,300 to $1,200.
Tellalian also offered an amendment to reduce the fee for the A-6 license, which covers cooking schools, and the B-2 license, which authorizes the sale of wine only for consumption outside the store, except in conjunction with wine tastings. Flavour Cooking School and House Red are the only businesses that hold an A-6 or B-2 license.
Brian Kaczmar, the owner of KazzBarr and president of the Forest Park Liquor Association, addressed the council before the vote and spoke against the increase. Following the vote, he said he was unhappy with the outcome, but resigned to its inevitability.
“I knew it was bound to happen,” Kaczmar said. “I knew it was coming.”
The new ordinance also raises the liquor license application fee for new applicants to $750 from $100. In the mayor’s original proposal the fee would have been raised to $500.