The closing times for Forest Park bars will no longer revert to pre-April 2021 limits on Sept. 6.
On Monday, the village council voted 3-1 that bars, brewpubs and event spaces that in the past were allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends will now be allowed to stay open every night until 1 a.m. except on select holidays when the hours may be extended.
This action on hours came earlier than anticipated after the council, in response to multiple incidents of violence and rowdiness on Madison Street, had limited hours for bars to an 11 p.m. closing time through the summer.
Commissioner Ryan Nero asked for the ordinance to include language that would require the village to revisit the issue again after Labor Day, but he ultimately settled for a verbal agreement from Mayor Rory Hoskins that the council will revisit the issue during its Sept. 13 meeting.
Commissioner Maria Maxham, who wanted the regular closing hours restored, or at least for the village to set longer weekend hours, cast the “no” note. Commissioner Joe Byrnes was absent.
Under the previous version of the liquor code, most liquor license holders had to stop selling alcohol by 2 a.m. on weekdays and by 3 a.m. on weekends, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after St. Patrick’s Day. But in the spring of 2021, the village council temporarily cut back those hours. Under the May 16 ordinance, Class A, A1, A7 and A8 liquor licenses had to close by 11 p.m.
Class A license is for bars that serve food, while Class A1 license is for bars that don’t. Class A7 license is for brewpubs, while Class A8 license is for venues that serve alcohol during private events.
Class A license holders got their regular hours back effective June 15, but Class A1, A7 and A8 license holders were to keep to the reduced hours until Sept. 6.
The Aug. 9 ordinance moved closing hours for all four licenses to 1 a.m. on weekdays and weekends, and to 2 a.m. for the holidays. Hoskins described the change as “equaliz[ing] the field,” saying that the Class A license holders he spoke to had agreed to it.
Both Nero and Maxham were concerned that the change didn’t have a sunset date. But while Maxham said she was in favor of returning to pre-spring status quo after Labor Day, Nero wanted to see how the bars would respond to the expanded hours. The sunset date would force the village to revisit the issue in a few weeks and adjust the policy accordingly, if necessary.
“We’re throwing a bone out there, and then it becomes behavioral thing,” Nero said. “If you can’t behave under the concessions that are being made, then we go down a different path.”
Maxham argued that the change in hours needs to be “part of broader conversion [about] redefining Madison Street.”
“Limiting the times doesn’t get us, necessarily, where we need to go,” she said.
Maxham also suggested setting the closing times at 1 a.m. on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, but that didn’t get any support from the rest of the council.