Note: This article was edited on May 11 at 8:45 a.m. to include comments from the owner of Urban Pioneer Group and to update the types of liquor licenses that would be affected by the proposed amendment to include A8, special event liquor licenses.
Forest Park’s village council will hold a special meeting on May 12, at 7 p.m. to discuss further amending the hours for liquor sales within the village, following a May 9 incident where police say a group of around 50 people refused to disperse for more than half an hour, blocking traffic and verbally and physically harassing officers.
The proposed amendment would require all bars and restaurants to close at 11 p.m. every day for 30 days. After that, bars with food sales accounting for at least half of gross annual receipts (and holding a Class A liquor license) would be allowed to stay open until 1 a.m. on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends. Taverns without food service would continue to close at 11 p.m. through Labor Day. This would also apply to holders of A8 liquor licenses, which are issued to event spaces such as Urban Pioneer Group (UPG).
The 11 p.m. closing time would correspond with the regular police shift change, Mayor Rory Hoskins told the Review, meaning twice the personnel would be available in the event that extra officers were needed while bar patrons are dispersing.
Hoskins added that the size of Forest Park’s police force may not be sufficient to deal with the large crowds that have been gathering on Madison Street.
“Our officers showed amazing restraint,” Hoskins said, referring to the incident that occurred in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 9, when officers were reportedly harassed while trying to arrest a man for allegedly choking a woman and to break up a fight. Even after the arrest, the crowd refused to disperse for 30 minutes, necessitating assistance from two other police departments to break up the group.
“It speaks to their professionalism,” Hoskins said of the officers on duty that night. “Our officers want to protect the department’s reputation and the integrity of the village. We need to protect our officers and not put them in a vulnerable position, where they are dealing with evolving norms regarding policing while doing what’s best for Forest Park.”
Forest Park has recently taken steps to try to curb what village officials have called “unruly” behavior on Madison Street. On April 26, the village council voted 4 to 1 to cut bar service by an hour. New signage reminding people of noise rules has been displayed along the street. Burkhardt Court is being blocked off at Madison Street to prevent “tailgating,” and police are patrolling the streets. But those measures apparently have been insufficient to stop fighting and disturbances.
The May 9 incident occurred around 1:30 a.m. when, according to police, a crowd that grew to around 50 people blocked Madison Street, fighting, littering, shouting obscenities, harassing police officers and refusing to disperse for at least half an hour. Oak Park and River Forest police units responded to assist Forest Park officers.
According to the police report, at 1:25 a.m. police stationed on Madison Street heard a group of people arguing at 7503 Madison St., outside UPG.
“The situation is rapidly evolving into a potential disturbance,” the report stated. Officers approached the group of about 25 people, in the center of which people reportedly were pushing each other.
It seemed that the attention of the crowd was focused on a man who had his hands wrapped around a woman’s neck, apparently choking her, police reported.
Although police made their presence known and grabbed the man’s arms, he allegedly continued to choke the woman, according to the report.
The man then reportedly resisted arrest, allegedly pushing one of the officers in the chest. After police took the man to the ground and tried to handcuff him, he reportedly fought them.
Meanwhile the crowd of about 25 people had surrounded the officers, “actively yelling obscenities and contacting [them],” according to the police report, while the man continued to fight attempts to take him into custody.
It took three minutes and five officers to get the man into handcuffs, police reported, as some in the crowd reportedly grabbed at police officers’ duty belts and vests. Two Forest Park police officers’ squad car keys were lost during the incident. Ultimately, police were able to place the man they arrested into a squad car and take him to the police station.
The group of people had now shifted into the street, and Oak Park and River Forest units arrived to assist with the crowd, which was growing increasingly aggressive, according to the report. As a Forest Park officer attempted to disperse the crowd, someone allegedly threw a cup of ice at him.
The crowd, which according to police had grown to about 50 people, some of whom allegedly had previously been at an event at UPG, blocked traffic on Madison Street for about half an hour, ignoring all commands from police to disperse.
According to the police report, officers prevented at least three other fights from starting, and the street “was littered with an abundance of food, garbage, hair accessories, and various other items.”
The man police arrested remained uncooperative, at one point reportedly telling police, “I can choke my girl, that’s my b**ch.” He was charged with five counts of resisting/obstructing a police officer and one count of battery for attacking the woman, whose identity police were unable to confirm. He was bonded from the station by a friend.
This is not the only time in recent weeks that a crowd has gathered and refused to disperse, according to police. On May 1 outside Forest Park Tap Room, 7321 Madison St., a large crowd exiting the bar refused to disperse for 20-30 minutes, according to the police report from the incident. Subjects were yelling and walking into the street, apparently with no concern for oncoming traffic.
According to Hoskins, UPG will be cited for failing to provide security and for breach of peace after Sunday morning’s incident.
UPG owner Tom Kunkel said the event in his space ended at 12:45 a.m. and that partygoers at the UPG event had dispersed “peacefully” prior to the incident on Madison Street. “Guests went home or to other bars,” said Kunkel. He also reported that the event at UPG had a certified bartender serving alcohol that night and two security guards staffing it, checking guests for weapons and looking at vaccination cards before allowing people to enter. Kunkel said that no alcohol or containers were allowed to be taken out of UPG. According to Kunkel, his security reported an argument that erupted west of UPG around 1:15 a.m. “The man choking his girlfriend was not a guest at our event,” Kunkel said.