Multiple local ordinance citations, from public urination to underage drinking and excessive noise, were issued to bars and their patrons up and down Madison Street over the weekend, as people flocked to drinking establishments during one of the first warm weekends in months. The fact that March 6 should have been the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which has been postponed until September because of COVID-19, may have contributed to the crowds and problems, said Forest Park Police Chief Tom Aftanas in an interview March 8.

Among citations issued were those to two underage individuals caught drinking alcohol. One, who was stopped with a cup containing alcohol on Madison Street, said he’d been drinking in Shortstop. The other was stopped with an open container outside Forest Park Tap Room but refused to tell police where he had gotten the drink. Both instances occurred in the early morning hours of March 7.

Both Forest Park Tap Room and Shortstop were the sites of other misbehavior in the wee hours of March 7.

Forest Park Tap Room was issued a citation for serving patrons after hours when police conducted a check at 2:05 a.m. on March 7 and found approximately 10 customers still inside, most, according to the police report, sitting at the bar and drinking alcoholic beverages. The reporting officer said he announced the bar was closed, but the patrons continued drinking. The reporting officer then yelled out that the bar was closed, at which point people finished their drinks and began collecting their belongings.

“It was apparent that the patrons did not appear to be leaving prior to my entry and order to leave the bar, nor was anyone actively wearing masks or practicing social distancing while in the bar,” wrote the reporting officer in his report.

Early the previous morning, at 2:30 a.m. on March 6, Forest Park Tap Room was issued a citation for excessive noise after a caller reported loud music coming from the bar. According to the police report, “The location has been the source of numerous community complaints.” The reporting officer said he arrived on the scene and the music was so loud that the bartender and DJ couldn’t hear what he was saying.

Finally, according to the report, the DJ turned down the music, but it was “still at an unreasonable level” so the officer asked him two more times to turn down the volume, which he did.

The report alleges that bar owner Lance Law refused to provide an ID to the police and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol himself. When police told him that numerous people had called about noise, he responded with, “How is it my problem they bought an apartment on Madison Street next to a bar?”

Co-owner Hansel Law provided his ID to police and was issued a local ordinance citation related to excessive noise.

The police report also said the department had seen multiple videos on that date showing a large group of people, not all of them wearing masks or being properly distanced, consuming alcohol and dancing.

“With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the location appears to be a health risk,” wrote the officer in his report.

In an interview with the Review on March 8, however, Lance Law defended Forest Park Tap Room, 7321 Madison St. Because of promotional events being hosted by the bar, said Law, people are coming from all over the city and nearby suburbs. He said, though, that because of the size of the bar, there is ample room for social distancing, and they have been adhering to guidelines regarding occupancy.

“Capacity is not an issue for us,” Law said. He added that they’ll be beefing up security, which will include having their regular security guard patrol the perimeter around the bar to ensure that patrons leaving will do so safely and without disturbing anyone, and they have posted signs reminding patrons to be respectful of neighbors.

Forest Park Tap Room owners hung signs on their establishment reminding patrons to be respectful. | Photo provided

Shortstop, 7413 Madison St., was also the reported location of several citations over the weekend, although none were issued to the bar itself. In addition to the minor caught drinking outside, police reports indicated that the bar was playing loud music and several patrons were walking around outside with open containers of alcohol. A bar patron “stumbled out of the bar heavily intoxicated,” according to the police report, was unable to walk and fell backwards, hitting his head on the sidewalk. Paramedics were called to take him to the hospital.

Owner Marty Sorice acknowledged that there were problems over the weekend and that he and his staff will correct them.

“We had security but at that moment not at the door,” Sorice said in a statement. “We are aware of the minor and to our knowledge he was not in the bar. We were supposed to be at 50 people; if we were over, we intend to correct it. We got a large influx of people right at that point. We certainly are not faultless here and we will seek to improve.”

Although several police reports were related to Tap Room and Shortstop, there were problems at other locations.

“We saw issues along the whole length of Madison Street,” said Aftanas.

There were at least six incidences of public urination on Madison Street and near bars on Randolph Street, according to police reports, and at least seven citations issued for open alcohol.

Aftanas made it clear that the behavior witnessed and ticketed by officers over the weekend won’t be tolerated.

“We don’t want that type of behavior to be a regular thing on Madison Street,” Aftanas said. “We do not want someone to step outside after having dinner somewhere and see someone urinating on the street.”

Aftanas said the midnight shift knows what to look for and will keep an eye on the bars, especially watching for loud music, open containers, underage drinking and lack of social distancing.

“Rules will be strictly enforced,” Aftanas said. He added that officers will maintain communication with bar owners and work with them to correct problems and to remind them to be respectful of their neighbors.

Mayor Rory Hoskins, too, said the weekend was problematic. Like Aftanas, he said he thinks the fact that it was supposed to be the day of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade most likely contributed to the large number of tickets handed out by the police.

“It was a raucous Saturday night,” Hoskins said. “We don’t want Forest Park’s image to be that of rampant public urination or disregard of social distancing.” He said he’s asked police to use their cameras to take pictures of what’s going on inside bars, and each liquor license holder’s occupancy is being reviewed and bar owners will be reminded of the rules, including capacity.