Forest Park bars can once again offer live entertainment, including acoustic music on approved outdoor patios for the first time, after the Village Council voted to ease some restrictions put in place earlier this year in the wake of rising calls for law enforcement.
The Oct. 12 meeting offered a bit of relief for bar owners who had been subject to multiple rounds of restrictions to curb what Mayor Rory Hoskins called “rowdy” late-night behavior on Madison Street. In May, days after an incident outside a bar in which dozens of people allegedly ignored police commands to disperse, the council voted to force bars to temporarily close at 11 p.m., up to four hours earlier than had been previously allowed. The move was met with vehement opposition from some bar owners at the time, with one calling the decision a “death sentence.”
After first rolling back restrictions only for businesses that serve both food and drinks, the council in August decided to allow all bars and restaurants to remain open as late as 1 a.m. That new closing time still marked a reduction in hours for locations that had been able to keep their doors open as late as 3 a.m. on the weekend.
Now, the council has decided to take two more significant actions, this time concerning allowable entertainment. The first change to the statute gives the OK for music on outdoor patio spaces — erasing language that specifically barred such performances — provided it is acoustic (without speakers or amplification) and ends by 9 p.m. Those performances are allowable at any bar or restaurant that already has a supplemental “beer garden” license. Patios must still close by midnight.
“Because they may have lost opportunities for revenue between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., we wanted to give them (other) opportunities,” Hoskins, who also serves as the village’s liquor commissioner, said in an interview. “We felt like allowing acoustic, non-amplified music wouldn’t be too much of a disturbance to neighbors providing that it ceased at a certain hour.”
The second amendment authorizes the return of indoor entertainment that had also been prohibited in recent months, a move made in conjunction with the sharp reduction of hours in May. As of Oct. 12, bars can once again host DJs, karaoke, live music and other performances indoors, but only until 11 p.m. Hoskins said the 11 p.m. cut-off would allow patrons to “wind down” before the bars closed for the night.
In order to host indoor entertainment, bars and restaurants must now also apply for an entertainment license, detailing the type of entertainment to be offered and subject to the approval of the liquor commissioner (Hoskins) and the council. The licenses will be renewed on an annual basis, according to Hoskins and Village Administrator Moses Amidei.
A previous provision required bars and restaurants be designated an amusement establishment to host entertainment but Amidei, who has been on the job since May, said that provision was not being enforced.
The amendments passed by a 5-0 vote.
In other business, the council approved the purchase of an online bill paying platform that will allow residents to, among other things, manage and pay their water bills online for the first time. The CivicPay module from Springbrook Software will eventually replace the village’s current system, which requires residents to either pay monthly by check or to register for an automatic debit by completing a paper form and submitting it to the village.
The upgrade comes at a cost of $2,100 per year.
Amidei said the system could be in place as soon as January 2022, adding that the village has plans to allow residents to pay other kinds of municipal fees using the new online system in the future.
The council also used the Oct. 12 meeting to discuss plans for managing volunteer efforts on public grounds. At issue was a request by a group of private citizens to continue maintaining planters along the Harvard Street corridor between Ferdinand and Thomas avenues without having to pay for a village permit, as is required by village code. In a letter signed by Forest Park residents John Cunningham and Rob Sall, the volunteer group also requested to plant around 10,000 tulip bulbs on the Harvard Street medians near Des Plaines and Harlem avenues.
The mayor and city council members generally agreed that volunteerism in the village should be encouraged, cautioning only that any work done on public property would need to be accompanied by certain waivers and permits, primarily for liability purposes.
In an interview with the Review one day after the council meeting, Amidei said the village was interested only in preserving public safety and said the village did not intend to charge a permit fee to the volunteers.
“(Planting) is not something that village public works crews are handling so when you have private citizens undertaking a planting on that level, which we’re very grateful for, we just need to make sure that (rules are followed),” he said.
The Forest Park Village Council meets on the second and fourth Mondays of every month (the Oct. 12 meeting was a day late because of a federal holiday). Meetings are open to the public and can be viewed remotely via Zoom. Council agendas and minutes are available online at forestpark.net.