Pioneer Tap will remain open for business as usual, at least for now, following a two-hour hearing in front of Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins Monday morning that ended without a ruling.
Hoskins, who also serves as the village’s liquor commissioner and was operating in that capacity Monday, will make a public decision in the coming weeks although a specific timeline has not been set. Monday’s hearing was more than two months in the making and happened after three previous hearings were postponed. At issue is whether Pioneer Tap, one of several Forest Park bars owned by Marty and Lynn Sorice, was negligent in its duties on the night of July 30 and failed to report an incident at the bar as required by village code.
Police were called to a two-vehicle crash outside the bar at 7445 Randolph St. around 10:30 p.m. on the night of July 30 and arrived to find both vehicles unoccupied after an apparent head-on collision. Officer Laura O’Donnell of the Forest Park Police Department testified Monday that witnesses saw a fight inside the bar and believed the man who instigated the fight then caused the crash as he drove away. The man has not been identified, O’Donnell said.
The driver of the second vehicle later returned to the scene and told O’Donnell that it appeared the man who hit him was trying to strike a pedestrian with his car when the accident occurred. Other witnesses claimed the driver of the car that caused the crash was armed with a gun, police said. The second driver said he was initially driven away from the crash scene by a bystander after hearing someone yell “gun.”
The complaint against the bar filed by Acting Chief of Police Kenneth Gross alleges Pioneer Tap violated village liquor code’s rules for “Preservation of the Peace” by failing to staff sufficient security personnel and failing to maintain the premises in a “peaceful and orderly manner.”
If the bar is found to have violated the code, punishment falls to the discretion of the liquor commissioner, Hoskins, and could include fines, suspension or revocation of a liquor license.
Kenneth Goldin, an attorney representing Marty Sorice and the Pioneer Tap, painted a different picture of the evening during Monday’s hearing. Sorice told Hoskins that his bars “do not tolerate (fighting) in any way, shape or form” and testimony from bar manager Colin Jackson alleged that no physical fight occurred inside the bar July 30, calling it an “attempted altercation” where one man threw a punch that did not connect. Jackson said the men were quickly removed from the bar.
Jackson also said three people were working as bar security at the time of the incident and that they informed him almost immediately of the incident inside. “Minutes later,” Jackson said, police were on scene responding to the car accident.
Hoskins will deliver his findings publicly once his decision has been made. No date has been set.
Monday’s hearing is the latest of several disputes over liquor licenses, bar and patron behavior to reach village hall in the last year. In May, the village council forced bars to close early after a string of “rowdy” incidents this spring and the village no longer allows bars to remain open until 3 a.m. on weekends, as had been previously allowed.
One bar, Forest Park Tap Room, had its liquor license revoked by Hoskins in September. At the time, Hoskins said the punishment was handed down as a result of multiple ordinance violations on several dates, not a single incident.