Almost six months after the village government updated its regulations on live entertainment at bars and other liquor-serving businesses, ambiguities in the legal language started to crop up – but any major changes would have to wait for the larger update of the village liquor code.
Section 3-3-12 of the village municipal code requires liquor license holders to apply for an entertainment license – known as the “amusement license” until the Oct. 12, 2021, update – if it wants to hold a live event of any kind. The provision was seldom enforced until the summer of 2021. On July 2, 2021, the village council imposed a moratorium on such licenses to give the village time to update the rules, only to let the moratorium expire Sept. 15, 2021, without taking action. On Oct. 12, 2021, the village overhauled that section, explicitly adding DJs, karaoke events and band performances to the definition of “entertainment” and requiring that indoor entertainment end no later than 11 p.m.
But the April 11 meeting revealed that the overhaul still left some ambiguities. Several applicants mentioned that they were planning to “self-DJ” – using a phone or some other device to play pre-programmed playlists. The council broadly agreed that this wasn’t the kind of DJing they wanted to regulate, and that establishments shouldn’t have to get permission for that. Commissioners also raised concerns that some applicants were submitting broad descriptions that gave them enough leeway to defeat the point of the oversight the licensing process was supposed to provide.
Mayor Rory Hoskins agreed that the guidelines could be improved and encouraged commissioners to submit ideas. But he told the Review that he didn’t expect to have any significant overhaul until the village attorneys review the rest of the liquor code – which he didn’t have a firm timeline for. In the meantime, Hoskins did say that the village was looking on improving the application forms, so that applicants could fill them out and potentially submit them digitally instead of having to print them out and fill them out by hand.
As it’s currently written, Section 3-3-12 requires liquor license holders to get an entertainment license in order to “sponsor, conduct, or permit entertainment,” which the code defines as “includ[ing] but not be limited to, any public show, theatrical, animate or inanimate exhibition, live bands performing music (maximum of five (5) performers), DJ’s, karaoke, or any other amusement, diversion, production, etc. offered, operated, presented or exhibited to the public.” The municipal code doesn’t explicitly define the term “DJ’s.”
The village council considered five applications, all for the month of May. Blueberry Hill, 427 Des Plaines Ave., and Carole’s Next Best Thing. 7307 Roosevelt Rd., which are both co-owned by Lynn Sorice, asked for permission to “occasionally have customer birthday parties that we self-DJ” on weekends within the 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. time slot. Lathrop House Café, 26 Lathrop Ave., wanted to hold acoustic duo performances in their back yard from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday live jazz performances from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
While the council didn’t take issue with the first three applications, several commissioners raised concerns that the other two were too broadly worded. Pioneer Tap, another Sorice-owned bar, this one at 7445 Randolph St., asked to be able to play music every between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.
“We employ DJ or self-DJ by playing music from the laptop,” the application stated.
Sorice-owned Shortstop Lounge, 7425 Madison St., wanted to be able to play music on Fridays and weekends during the same time slot to accommodate “groups of customers who enjoy occasional DJing or playing acoustical live music.”
“It feels like you’re applying for a license and you don’t know if you’re going to use it,” said commissioner Jessica Voogd, adding that she wasn’t comfortable approving a license that would “blanket-cover” several different types of performances.
“Unfortunately, I think, as a village, we weren’t specific enough when we asked people to fill these [applications] out,” said Commissioner Maria Maxham. “I don’t want to say ‘no,’ but I’m going to say ‘no.’”
The council agreed to hold off on the decision until the April 25 meeting to give Sorice a chance to address their questions.