In a move some residents on Facebook compared to the movie “Footloose,” a moratorium on accepting and processing amusement licenses until Sept. 6 was passed by the village council at a special meeting on July 2. Passage of the moratorium puts a temporary halt to any live music at bars or restaurants.
Mayor Rory Hoskins, however, indicated that the code may be rewritten and the ordinance lifted before the summer is over.
Hoskins and Commissioners Ryan Nero and Jessica Voogd voted in favor of the moratorium. Commissioner Joe Byrnes abstained. Commissioner Dan Novak, who publicly resigned at the last village council meeting, was not present.
A similar ordinance failed during the June 14 regularly scheduled council meeting when no second to the motion was made. That ordinance only targeted bars with A1 licenses, however, which was one of the reasons Byrnes said he didn’t second at that time. Nero and Voogd both said they thought that ordinance needed more fleshing out. The current ordinance applies to all liquor license holders.
Amusement applications, though regulated and loosely defined in the liquor code, haven’t been enforced in years, and the topic of temporarily disallowing amusement uses, such as disc jockeys or live music, was discussed at length by the ad hoc committee put together to find solutions to the current rowdiness problems with some bars on Madison Street. Committee members supported enforcing the code, which requires any establishment wishing to provide amusement to fill out an application from the village.
Amusement, in the current liquor code, is defined as “any public show, theatrical, animate or inanimate exhibition, musical, music, mechanical or manually operated entertainment device.”
Technically, according to current code, a bar or restaurant that wants to have, say, a live band play or a comedian perform is required to apply through the village. Until now, however, that wasn’t enforced.
The passage of this ordinance means that no bars of any classification can apply for a permit for entertainment until Sept. 6, and any bars that have entertainment already scheduled must cancel the act. So no live music or disc jockeys or puppet shows or singers until September.
Hoskins and the commissioners acknowledged that the current code needs to be updated, something Hoskins said he’s already working on with village attorneys.
“We have an insufficient ordinance that covers [amusements],” said Hoskins. The ordinance, he said, was adopted in the 1980s, “and what we’re finding is that it really doesn’t suit where we are.” As a result, Hoskins said, the village has asked the law firm to update the code, specifically the parts relating to amusements.
Nero agreed that the current liquor code, specifically as it relates to amusements and also live music outdoors, is “a little antiquated.”
The moratorium, he said, was a chance for the council “to pause, sit down, look at the ordinance and see what makes sense for the village of Forest Park.” Nero said he wanted the village to “get it straight, have it make sense for the bar and business owners so we’re not up here again.”
Voogd voted in favor of the moratorium but said that the issue needs to be revisited.
“Unfortunately, this does need to happen to clean up the language of the ordinance and figure out what is and isn’t allowable and let everyone know the process on how to go forward to have these things,” Voogd said.
It’s consistency, said Voogd, that’s important, and taking time to have lawyers rewrite the code will offer that consistency to the village.
“I think we need to take this moment to clean [the code] up, and to make sure that everybody knows what is required of them,” Voogd said. “We owe that consistency to our business owners so that they can plan and properly run their businesses.”
The commissioners also brought up a separate but related part of the liquor code that currently prohibits beer gardens or outdoor patios associated with bars or restaurants from having any live music of any kind.
“I think there’s ways that we can rewrite that perhaps, and allow for that, to support our restaurants or bars for sure,” Nero said.
At the last regularly scheduled council meeting, Doc Ryan’s submitted an application for live music outdoors, but was denied because it was brought up that village code currently doesn’t allow outdoor beer gardens or bar or restaurant patios to have any live entertainment at all. With a rewritten code, this could change. The same would apply to Lathrop House Café, which was recently told to cease the live music performances they were holding since, according to village code, it’s currently not allowed.
Hoskins said he anticipated having a rewritten code on amusement applications and permits back from the lawyers and up for vote potentially by the July 26 village council meeting. That would cover entertainment inside bars or restaurants.
Updating the code on allowing beer gardens and patios to have live entertainment, however, might take longer, Hoskins said, and he didn’t think changes to that section of village code would be ready by then.
“We want to get it right,” Hoskins said. He suggested to the commissioners that concerns they have regarding amusements, whether related to the types of entertainment or anything else, should be communicated to Village Administrator Moses Amidei.