On June 23, Urban Pioneer Group (UPG) owners Tom and Sheila Kunkel appeared before Mayor Rory Hoskins, liquor commissioner, for the continuation of their liquor hearing after the June 8 emergency suspension of their license. On June 15 at 5 p.m. they were allowed to resume operations, closing all events by 11 p.m., but the final orders had to be entered into the record and a fine determined by the village.
At the June 15 hearing, the Kunkels’ attorney, Nir Basse, asked that a presentation of UPG’s charitable contributions to the community be considered in determining the fine and perhaps lowering it from the village’s proposed $2,000.
On June 23, however, the fine was set at $3,000.
Both Hoskins and village attorney Tom Bastion came down hard on the Kunkels, Hoskins for their “lack of candor” relating to the May 9 incidents and Bastion because the Kunkels had not watched video footage of the events that caused UPG to be ticketed.
“There has been something of a lack of candor associated with these incidents,” Hoskins said during the hearing. “There have been numerous social media statements. However, there’s also footage of the incident. There is footage of individuals who assaulted village of Forest Park police officers, and this whole episode has done damage to Forest Park’s reputation and the integrity of the village’s downtown business district.”
Two videos of the May 9 incident have been viewed by police and village officials and attorneys. The first is police body camera footage of the fight in which a man choked a woman and officers breaking up the fight were allegedly assaulted, verbally and physically, by a crowd that grew to several dozen. The second video is from a bar on Madison Street that shows UPG patrons leaving well after the time Tom Kunkel said his event had cleared out and also allegedly shows the choking suspect from the body cam video leaving UPG earlier that night. Kunkel originally stated to the Review and on social media the subject hadn’t been at UPG.
Bastion asked the Kunkels if they’d watched the videos, which were made available to them, and they said no, eliciting criticism from the attorney.
“Well, I certainly wish you had [watched them],” Bastion said. “Because it’s very fortunate that a Forest Park police officer wasn’t injured; he could have been seriously injured.”
Bastion went on to say that if the officer had gotten hurt in the line of duty, the village would be liable not only for the cost of medical treatment but, had it been a career-ending injury, for pay until retirement age too, which “could cost hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Bastion added about the body cam video: “I’ve been practicing for 36 years, and I was taken aback by it. I was alarmed.”
UPG is an event space that runs out of 7503 Madison St. The Kunkels hold an A8 liquor license for parties at the location.