The interior of the Forest Park Tap Room. File photo

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission will hear arguments next month to determine whether Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins was justified in revoking the Forest Park Tap Room’s liquor license in August, after the bar was found to have violated numerous village ordinances in the span of several months.

Attorney Mark Johnson filed the appeal on behalf of the Tap Room, 7321 Madison St., and co-owners Hansel and Lance Law on Sept. 17, asking the commission to reverse Hoskins’ Aug. 26 decision — one he made in his capacity as liquor commissioner — that has closed the bar ever since.

The commission has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Dec. 8 at 10:30 a.m.

In a written appeal obtained by the Review, Johnson argues that Forest Park Tap Room was “continuously targeted and harassed” since it opened in October 2020 and, in that context, declares that the Tap Room is “the first tavern owned and operated by Black entrepreneurs in the Village of Forest Park.”

In responding to the latter claim, Hoskins, who is Black, disputed its accuracy during the Aug. 26 hearing, saying that the Tap Room “is not the sole liquor license held by a person of African descent in this village.”

“I want that to be noted because I don’t want the record to somehow show that the village is targeting Black liquor license holders,” Hoskins said, per a transcript of the hearing.

Hoskins and Johnson both declined to comment for this story.

The substance of the Tap Room’s appeal centers on the events of July 30-31, the night that ultimately led to the bar being brought before the village liquor commission for a final time. Hoskins presided over a hearing on that issue Aug. 26, issued his findings that day and later read those findings into the official record Aug. 30.

(Johnson’s written appeal incorrectly notes the date of the incident as Aug. 22, which is in fact the day the bar was officially served with a summons to appear in front of the liquor commission.)

At that Aug. 26 hearing, Forest Park Police Ofc. Daniel Pater testified he was working the night of July 30 and early morning of July 31, and that he patrolled Madison Street just after midnight to ensure all bars were complying with an ordinance that, at the time, required their facilities to be empty by midnight.

Pater said that at 12:02 a.m., he observed several people inside the Tap Room, including a number of suspected patrons eating around a table. Pater and another officer entered the bar, asked the people at the table to leave, and began the process of issuing a citation.

Law, who was at the bar July 31 and testified at the Aug. 26 hearing, made an argument in front of the commission that is largely consistent with the one in the appeal, claiming that everyone in the bar at 12:02 a.m. was an employee — either a bartender, bar back, promoter or a trainee — and saying, “I feel like we are targeted.”

In issuing his decision to revoke the bar’s license, Hoskins said that in the approximately 10 months that the bar had been operating, the owners had already been brought before the commission multiple times and had twice been found in violation, once in April and again in June.

Law would later say that at least one of those issues was the result of a “miscommunication,” and in the appeal Johnson, the bar’s lawyer, said the Law brothers did not fight those earlier violations “in an effort to garner favor with the local police department and community.”

The bar was fined several thousand dollars in each case and the second incident resulted in a 10-day suspension of the bar’s liquor license.

In his August ruling, Hoskins said the multiple infractions on multiple dates — not just the events of July 31 — were significant factors in his decision to hand down the most severe punishment available.

“The license to sell alcohol in the village of Forest Park is a privilege,” Hoskins said. “After numerous violations, the Tap Room has exhausted the privilege. They have shown repeated disregard for small businesses in the area.”