Facebook has exploded with conversations about the cut-back on bar hours after the May 12 Forest Park village council meeting. The Review saw a range of questions and allegations, from the accusation that the mayor doesn’t live in town (he does), to questions about what kind of liquor license was issued to the latest bar to open on Madison Street (A1).
Who changed the bar hours?
Bar hours were changed by a majority vote of the village council, which is comprised of Mayor Rory Hoskins and Commissioners Joe Byrnes, Ryan Nero, Dan Novak and Jessica Voogd, all elected officials. To pass the amended ordinance, there had to be a majority vote. This particular vote was unanimous. The ordinance was proposed by Hoskins and written with direction and feedback from village staff.
What are the new hours?
Beginning May 16 and running through June 15, all bars and restaurants, including special event spaces like Urban Pioneer Group, must close every night by 11 p.m.
On June 16, Class A liquor license holders, that derive at least 50% of their gross sales from food, are allowed to go back to regular amended hours (see below). All other establishments must continue to close at 11 p.m. throughout the summer until Labor Day, Sept. 6.
Regular amended bar hours are in effect through Dec. 31, 2021. Previous bar closing times were 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and 3 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. On April 26, the village council voted to reduce those hours to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Are the new hours set in stone? Can changes be made?
According to Hoskins during the May 12 meeting, “This is a temporary action. It can be rescinded at any time if we find a workable solution.”
The village has scheduled at least one meeting so far involving stakeholders to look at possible solutions.
What is the difference between a Class A and Class A1 license?
A Class A license holder must derive more than 50 percent of revenues from food sales. Selling bags of chips or cooking pizzas behind the counter doesn’t count. Class A1 license holders have no food requirement and are also often referred to in village code as “taverns.”
According to Hoskins, “Each Class A licensee is required to keep records evidencing compliance with the food sales condition … All of the current Class A licensees have fully operating kitchens. If the village believed that a Class A licensee was not in compliance, we would require them to submit to a review.”
Many rumors have been circulating that Forest Park Tap Room was issued an A license even though it doesn’t serve food. That is false. Tap Room holds an A1 license that comes with no food requirement.
Is the village only allowed to issue A licenses that come with a food service requirement rather than A1 licenses?
No. There is nothing in the village code that suggests or states that only A licenses can be issued to potential liquor license holders. Over the past years, there has been an unofficial push to recruit restaurants over bars in an attempt to create a more family-friendly downtown business district.
“It is true that there are a number of Madison Street stakeholders who prefer to see us attracting more restaurants,” Hoskins said. In regard to issuing an A1 license to the Forest Park Tap Room, Hoskins said, “We didn’t want an empty space on the corner.”
Which bars and restaurants hold what kind of licenses?
Mayor Rory Hoskins provided the Review with a breakdown of the licenses held by various establishments in town. The list may not be inclusive of all restaurants or bars.
Establishments that hold a Class A license (with 50% food requirement) include: Caffe De Luca, Exit Strategy Brewing Company, Fat Duck, Golden Steer, Goldyburgers, Jimmy’s Place, Lathrop House Café, Mexican Republic Kitchen & Cantina, O’Sullivan’s, Panda Café, Tacabron, Shanahan’s, Taco Tu Restaurant & Bar.
Establishments that hold a class A1 license (with no food requirement) include Angelo O’Leary’s, Blueberry Hill, Carole’s Next Best Thing, Circle Bowling Lanes, Circle Inn, Doc Ryan’s, Duffy’s Tavern, McGaffer’s, Mugsy’s, Pioneer Tap, Shortstop Lounge, Slainte Irish Pub and The Beacon.
Class A2 licenses allow sales of alcohol to patrons who are dining-in and eating food sold by that same business. A2 license holders in Forest Park include Chirrion Mexican Restaurant, Louie’s Grill, Kribi Coffee, Small Batch Barbecue. Class A3 is similar but allows only the sale of wine and beer to customers. Class A3 liquor holders include Charlie’s, Portillo’s Hot Dogs and The Junction Diner.
Urban Pioneer Group holds an A8 liquor license, which allows sale of liquor and the carry-in of alcoholic beverages for special events. Yum Thai and Starship have BYOB licenses.
Did Mayor Rory Hoskins attend school with one or both of the owners of Forest Park Tap Room, Lance and Hansel Law?
According to Hoskins, this is false. Not only is he much older than they are, he never met them until they became interested in opening a bar in Forest Park.
“I have never attended school with either of them,” Hoskins said in a May 14 email to the Review. “I had never met them before last October when Mark Hosty [owner of Healy’s which used to operate in the space where Tap Room is now located] brought them to village hall to explain that they wanted to operate out of the former Healy’s space.”
Does Mayor Rory Hoskins live in Forest Park?
Yes. Hoskins has lived in Forest Park since 1999. He was elected as a village commissioner in Forest Park in 2007 and served two consecutive terms. He did not seek a third term. He was elected as mayor in 2019. For a link to his bio on the village’s website, please visit forestpark.net/dfp/government/local-government/mayor/.
There is a residency requirement for all elected officials in town, including the mayor and the commissioners.
Why is the mayor also the liquor commissioner?
This is dictated by the state. According to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s handbook for liquor commissioners, “In an incorporated Illinois city, town or village, the mayor or president of the board of trustees is the local liquor commissioner with jurisdiction and full licensing authority within the municipality’s corporate limits.”
How did Tap Room get its liquor license?
During the May 12 meeting, it was suggested by several people that there was an underhanded deal in which Healy’s old license was “slid across the table” to the owners of Tap Room.
Here’s what really happened.
In Oct. 2020, the liquor license previously issued to Healy’s was still in place when it was officially announced that Healy’s was closing for good. Healy’s held an A1 license that does not require food sales.
That previous August, the village council voted to “close out” or “dry up” liquor licenses of bars and restaurants that were no longer in business. Although Healy’s was already closed at that time, owner Hosty had told Hoskins he was unsure if the closure would last through COVID-19 or be a permanent move. Therefore, Healy’s liquor license was not on the list of licenses to be closed out.
According to Hoskins, when Hosty decided to close for good, he wanted to find someone to rent the space, so he brought the Law brothers to meet Hoskins, who told them if they were interested in opening a bar, they needed to fill out the application and submit to the standard background checks.
“This involved completing the written application and submitting for fingerprints and the background check,” Hoskins said. “The background check is conducted by state police.” Hoskins added that the background check is standard and performed uniformly when an application is made.
“If not, there is the danger that the application process could discriminate among applicants,” said Hoskins.
Hoskins added: “The [Forest Park Tap Room] license wasn’t issued until the background check conducted by the state police had been completed.”
Had Healy’s liquor license been closed out prior to Tap Room’s application, the village would not have had an available license to offer to Tap Room. In that case, the village council would have had to vote to increase the village’s number of licenses by one and, at that time, could or might have insisted that only an A license be issued. But without the need for the village council to vote to add a liquor license, the liquor commissioner could and did act in issuing the license without council approval.
However, prior to the business license, separate from the liquor license, being issued, village staff and commissioners were asked on Oct. 20 to respond to an email with any questions or concerns regarding Tap Room’s new business license so they could be addressed before Oct. 27. The email came from the village clerk.
Director of Building, Planning and Zoning Steve Glinke responded on Oct. 20 with concerns he had with licensing a bar that does not serve food. “We really need to engage the Chamber as turning Madison St. from a ‘bar street’ to what it is today is a huge shift away from a very successful strategy and frankly the ‘bars’ are more liability than asset. This space is 3,500 square [feet] … that’s a lot of bar,” he wrote. He added: “ … COVID shouldn’t be a mitigating factor … this is a long-game decision. I say we shelve this one until the staff can provide the policymakers with more data.”
But the grand opening of Tap Room was on Oct. 24, days before the deadline commissioners and village staff had been given to submit questions or comments. The Review has requested additional information from the village on the timing of the business license approval.
Why didn’t the village commissioners and mayor answer questions posed to them during the public comment portion of the recent meeting?
Publicly held meetings of the village council and many other public meetings (such as school board and park board meetings) are not intended to be a back-and-forth between elected officials and the public. Residents or interested parties are given a chance to express their opinion or provide feedback during the public comment section of the meeting, generally held at the beginning of the meeting. Time for public comment is usually limited to three minutes per person.
“Public comment is intended for one-way communication,” Hoskins said.
The public can contact any of the elected officials or village staff, whose email addresses and phone numbers can all be found on the village website at forestpark.net or by calling 708-366-2323.
Is the liquor license of Forest Park Tap Room owners’ other bar in Berwyn currently suspended?
Yes. A FOIA request from the village of Berwyn revealed that Berwyn Tap Room’s liquor license has been suspended from May 7 until May 28.
Is village code available to the public?
Yes. All Forest Park village code is available online at: https://codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/forestparkil/latest/overview.
There’s also a link from the village’s homepage under the Village/Village Codes tab at the top.
Fun fact from the liquor license restrictions section, which might need to be updated: “A license shall not be issued to a person who is not a resident of the village.”