Story updated Sept. 1
Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins ended the suspension of Lantern Haus bar’s liquor license nine days early after the bar filed a federal lawsuit against the village.
The license was suspended in response to a fight that occurred outside the bar the evening of July 25. During an Aug. 16 public hearing, Hoskins, who serves as the village’s liquor commissioner, suspended the license for 20 days, with credit for six days of the emergency closure in the wake of the fight, bringing the actual suspension term down to 14 days. The suspension took effect on Aug. 19 at 4 p.m.
Lantern Haus filed a federal lawsuit on the evening of Aug. 23, arguing that Hoskins violated the rights of the bar and its owners.
On the morning of Aug. 19, the bar had filed an appeal of the suspension with the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, arguing that bars are allowed to keep their licenses while an appeal is pending unless this is the second suspension in 12 months or less. On Aug. 24, Hoskins returned the Lantern Haus’ liquor license.
Under the second paragraph of Section 7-9 of the Illinois Liquor Control Act of 1939, if the appeal deals with “an order or action of the local liquor control commission having the effect of suspending or revoking a license” the licensee “shall resume the operation of the licensed business pending the decision of the State Commission.”
However, the following paragraph states that the suspension will stay in place if “that is the second or subsequent such suspension or revocation placed on that licensee within the preceding 12-month period.” Lantern Haus had its liquor license suspended on July 24, 2020, but it was reinstated on Aug. 7, 2020 after most charges were dropped and the bar paid a fine.
In an Aug. 23 interview held before the federal lawsuit was filed, Lantern Haus attorney Sean O’Leary said that, since the bar’s license wasn’t suspended 12 months before Aug. 19, they believed they were within their right to keep operating.
Forest Park police physically removed the license from the premises shortly after the suspension took effect. At the time, Hoskins declined to comment on O’Leary’s allegations, saying the village would continue enforcing the liquor license suspension unless they got a court order stopping them from doing that.
O’Leary said that, since he wasn’t involved with the federal lawsuit, he couldn’t comment on it. Lantern Haus owner Patrick Jacknow previously declined to comment on the matter, directing the inquiry to O’Leary. The lawsuit listed Chicago-based Patterson Law Firm as attorneys on the case.
The lawsuit alleged that, even though “Lantern Haus has received far fewer citations or other disciplinary measures” than other Madison Street bars, it faced stiffer penalties. It cited the example of an April 18 fight outside Doc Ryan’s bar, 7432 Madison St., and a July 17 fight outside O’Sullivan’s Public House, 7244 Madison St., arguing that neither bar got an emergency closure. However, the fight in front of Lantern Haus involved 50 people, far more people than either fight. Jacknow disputes the number of people alleged to have been involved in any fight outside his establishment. As the Review reported at the time, the April 18 fight was cited as a catalyst for the village council’s April 26 vote to reduce bar hours (a decision that was since superseded by other ordinances).
The lawsuit also went after Hoskins’ decision to suspend the liquor license while knowing about Lantern Haus’ appeal, requesting an injunction that would allow Lantern Haus to keep operating until the Illinois Liquor Commission ruled on its appeal.
“Given the unambiguous language of the Liquor Control Act, defendants lacked the authority to seize the license pending appeal,” the lawsuit stated. “Plaintiffs were unlawfully deprived of their property interests, including the liquor license and a substantial amount of revenue.”
O’Leary said his client was satisfied with the outcome.
“We’ve always, at Lantern Haus, wanted to comply with the law,” he said. “We challenged Forest Park on this — we wanted to comply with the law, the fact was, the law wasn’t complied with [when it comes to] Lantern Haus. The village has come back, five days later, and decided to follow procedures.”