After the temporary emergency suspension of its liquor license on April 3, Forest Park Tap Room will be allowed to reopen again on Monday, April 12, at 3 p.m. Owners Lance and Hansel Law were also ordered to pay a $2,500 fine.
The decision was made during an April 9 public hearing before Mayor Rory Hoskins, who serves as the village’s liquor commissioner. The meeting was attended by more than two dozen people, including local business owners and residents.
The hearing was to determine whether the liquor license should be suspended or revoked and if a fine should be imposed, according to counsel to the village, attorney Thomas Bastian.
Bastian cited multiple violations against Tap Room, including service of alcohol after hours; failure to prohibit off-premises consumption of alcohol; failure to prevent patrons from causing harm to neighboring businesses; incidents of patrons urinating and vomiting in public places and on private property; excessive noise; and failure to adhere to Illinois Department of Public Health and Cook County COVID-19 guidelines regarding capacity and social distancing.
Because the Laws’ lawyer was not present, Bastian offered to continue the hearing until the following Friday but indicated that the bar would have to remain closed until then. The owners opted to meet with village prosecutor Sharon O’Shea during the April 3 hearing instead of waiting.
A disposition was reached between the Laws, O’Shea and Deputy Police Chief Ken Gross during a private meeting while the hearing was recessed.
The decision was made to recess the hearing again until April 16, at which time the orders and agreement would officially be entered into the record, a procedural process. In the meantime, the bar can reopen on Monday afternoon and a $2,500 fine will be paid to the village within 60 days.
Conditions the Laws must meet include getting – and following – the exact requirements regarding COVID-19 regulations from the building director, stipulating to the charges that were filed, and cooperating with the village in controlling disturbances outside the premises.
“They have been admonished and they understand the issues,” said O’Shea. “They are going to work with their manager with regard to any events that are held there. They understand the severity of what is happening in that area and that they need to preserve the peace.”
If problems persist, said O’Shea, “we’re going to revisit the suspension.” She later added that revisiting the issue “can end up in another suspension and or revocation of their license.”
The agreement between O’Shea and the Laws was approved by Hoskins as liquor commissioner.
Forest Park Tap Room opened in late October 2020, days before the state mandated all bars and restaurants cease indoor service until improvements in COVID-19 rates and statistics were seen. The Laws, who own another bar in Berwyn called Berwyn Tap Room, are renting the space for Forest Park Tap Room from building owner Mark Hosty, who ran the long-standing pub Healy’s in that location. Hosty closed Healy’s in the early days of COVID-19 and never reopened, announcing its permanent closure on Oct. 13.
Hosty is a former village commissioner.
Hoskins issued Tap Room the available Class A1 liquor license from Healy’s, allowing it to operate as a stand-alone bar that does not plan to sell food.
Though Healy’s had closed, the A1 license it carried was still open. Last August, when the village council voted on the number of liquor licenses in each category, the number of A1 licenses was reduced by three, as Amy’s Winehouse converted to a coffee shop and R Place and Oak Leaf had shut their doors. Hoskins said Hosty had asked him to keep Healy’s license open in the event that the bar reopened after the pandemic; therefore, the license was not closed out at that meeting and was available for Forest Park Tap Room.
The Class A liquor license was instituted by the village in April 2012, according to previous reporting in the Review. At the time the ordinance was introduced, then Mayor Tony Calderone said the goal was to prevent restaurants from “morphing into full-scale bars” because it required licensee issues to earn at least 50 percent of their gross sales from food.
When Tap Room opened, Hoskins told the Review that he understood the trend in Forest Park to move away from stand-alone bars and A1 licenses, since for years the village has wanted to become a family-oriented destination, known for being more than just a “bar town.”
“But we have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. This was a discretionary call on the part of the liquor commissioner,” said Hoskins, who added that he didn’t want a big and prominent space on Madison Street left empty.