Forest Park Tap Room, 7321 Madison St. | File photo

Late last month the Illinois Liquor Control Commission unanimously reversed a ruling by Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins revoking the liquor license of the Forest Park Tap Room, 7321 Madison St.

Last August, acting in his capacity as the village’s liquor commissioner, Hoskins revoked the Tap Room’s liquor license, ruling that the bar had violated local ordinances numerous times.

But following a hearing in December, the seven-member State Liquor Control Commission ruled that the village had not proven the most recent alleged violation of serving liquor after hours shortly after midnight on July 31, 2021.

In a ruling issued on Jan. 27 the Liquor Control Commission ruled that although there was evidence that non-employees of the Tap Room were in the bar past its midnight closing time, there was no evidence that they had been sold alcohol after closing time.

Forest Park Police Sgt. Daniel Pater entered the bar two minutes after midnight on July 31 and testified that he saw eight to 10 people in the bar, at least four of whom did not work there.

Four people were seated at a table eating food when Pater arrived and a few employees were wiping down the bar. The state commission ruled that merely being in the bar after its closing time was not a violation of the bar’s A1 liquor license, which requires it to close at midnight.

“There is no testimony that the staff was actively conducting ‘business’ by selling, delivering, giving away, or serving any item, much less selling or serving alcoholic beverages,” the Liquor Control Commission’s ruling said.

The Liquor Control Commission found that there was no evidence that anyone was even consuming alcohol when Pater arrived.

The Tap Room reopened earlier this week after having been closed for five months.

“I was very disappointed at the state’s ruling,” said a tight-lipped Hoskins when asked about the ruling.

However, the village appears not to be done with the matter, according to two police reports generated on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3 after police visits to the tavern. On both nights, an officer observed people consuming alcohol inside Forest Park Tap Room.

Both police reports state, “It is believed that Forest Park Tap Room does not have a valid Illinois Liquor License” because Illinois Liquor Commission inspectors attempted to make contact with the Forest Park Tap Room on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3 but “were unsuccessful.”

As of Feb. 4, the website of the Illinois State Liquor Control Commission lists the Forest Park Tap Room’s liquor license as having expired on Sept. 30, 2021.

Hoskins said the village reinstated Forest Park Tap Room’s local liquor license, but that the business also was required to be licensed by the state.

“The state ordered us to return their local license which we did,” Hoskins said. “In order to operate in most circumstances a bar or any other liquor licensee, a restaurant, has to have both a local license and a state license, so in this case their state license may have lapsed.

“By complying with the state’s order we’ve done our part, so it’s up to the state and the license holder to resolve any lapses or any other technical issues that have to do with their state license,” Hoskins said.

Mark Johnson, the attorney who represented the Forest Park Tap Room in its appeal to the Liquor Control Commission, called the matter “an administrative issue.” Johnson declined further comment.

The Tap Room is owned by brothers Hansel and Lance Law. The Laws did not respond to requests for comment from the Review.

The Forest Park Tap Room opened in October 2020 in the space that Healy’s Westside formerly occupied. The Tap Room previously had been found in violation of local ordinances in April and June of last year.

In charges that the owners did not contest, the bar was fined and its liquor license was suspended for 10 days for violations that included being open after hours and defying an initial three-day suspension.

Some neighbors have complained about loud music and excessive noise coming from the Tap Room, fights occurring outside or inside the bar and people urinating in public after leaving the Tap Room. 

In appealing to the Liquor Control Commission, the Tap Room’s attorney, Johnson, argued the business was being targeted and harassed by the police and village because the Laws are Black.