Forest Park’s moratorium on public place of amusement licenses was allowed to expire as the village council continued to grapple with updating the ordinance regulating live performances and events in bars and restaurants.
Under the village’s municipal code, bars and restaurants have to apply for amusement licenses any time they want to host a performance so that Forest Park officials have a chance to review it. In practice, the provision hasn’t been enforced for many years. On July 2, the village council approved a moratorium on issuing amusement licenses until Sept. 6, to give the village time to come up with something that wouldn’t require quite as much micromanaging while still giving the village some oversight. While the commissioners have been discussing the ordinance, they didn’t finalize anything by the time the moratorium expired.
The issue came up during the Sept. 27 village council meeting, when the commissioners considered Kribi Coffee’s Sept. 15 amusement license application for several events. Most commissioners agreed that, while the new ordinance was still needed, it wouldn’t be fair to make the café wait until they sort it out. Commissioner Joe Byrnes voted against, saying it wouldn’t be fair to make Kribi subject to the old rules when new rules might be in place within weeks.
In its application, Kribi asked to hold open mic nights every first and third Wednesday of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., specifically mentioning Sept. 15, Oct. 6 and Oct. 20. It also mentioned live gallery showings every second and fourth Monday of the month, as well as live music performances, private food tasting events and “private coffee cupping and tasting” events without giving specific dates. The application didn’t give specific times for those events, stating only that they would all end no later than 9 p.m.
Commissioner Ryan Nero wondered whether the license is only good for the specific dates or if the village allowed them to do the events indefinitely. Mayor Rory Hoskins said the question illustrated why the change was needed, since it’s currently “a very ambiguous section that’s probably not suited for today’s need.”
Section 3-4-1 of the village’s municipal code requires a license for “any building, hall, room, grounds, picnic grove or enclosure where the public may be admitted, with or without the payment of a fee or charge, for the purpose of witnessing or engaging in an amusement,” with “amusement” defined as “any public show, theatrical exhibition, circus or any other entertainment offered, operated, presented or exhibited to the public.” But while the code has specific regulations for billiard halls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, racetracks and coin-operated jukeboxes, it doesn’t give any specific requirements for musical performances, gallery shows and open mics.
Hoskins said that, while the village did consider an ordinance revising those regulations, “there were some questions about it and we didn’t take it up.” He said he was still interested in having the council develop one, but in the meantime, they had to work with what they had.
“We’re still in the circumstance where we have to approve or deny each application,” Hoskins said.
Nero agreed he didn’t like the current situation and he wanted to see something better.
“I’d [want] us getting back together and straightening it out, sooner rather than later, so we can have a more consistent approach,” he said.
In the meantime, Nero saw no reason to reject Kribi’s application, since they were following the rules that are currently in place.
“They’re following our system,” he said. “They can’t help that our system is wonky right now. We’ll continue to clean up the ordinance, we continue to clean up the language, and until then, we got what we got.”
Commissioner Jessica Voogd said that ambiguity about the timing of the events in Kribi’s application bothered her. Byrnes argued that it made more sense to wait until the ordinance is revised, since it would give all applicants a level playing field. But Commissioner Maria Maxham said that she would prefer to approve the application before the dates when Kribi wanted to hold their events passes.
The council agreed to try to figure out the new regulations before the next village council meeting, which will take place Oct. 11. In the meantime, applications will be processed as is. They also broadly agreed that Kribi’s application will only be good for the specific dates within the document, and anything that doesn’t have specific dates would require another application.
The village council approved the application by a 4-1 vote, with Byrnes voting against. He told the Review that he still believed that approving Kribi’s application before the new ordinance is in place was a mistake.
“We should have the ordinance in place before we approve anyone,” he said. “I think we should have a level playing field, [so that] everybody goes by the same ordinance.”