Forest Park’s Village Council sent a clear message during its May 9 meeting – it is losing patience with bars submitting entertainment license applications that are too broadly worded.
During the April 11 meeting, the council took issue with applications submitted by two bars owned by Lynn Sorice — Pioneer Tap, 7445 Randolph St., and Shortstop Lounge, 7425 Madison St. – but they simply held off the vote until the next meeting. During the May 9 meeting, the council once again took issue with the Shortstop Lounge application and raised another issue with Doc Ryan’s bar, 7432 Madison St., which is owned by Matt Sullivan. But this time, the council rejected the applications outright – while still giving the applicants time to file new applications.
Forest Park municipal code requires liquor license holders to apply for an entertainment license if they want to “sponsor, conduct, or permit entertainment.” The village stepped up enforcement of that provision in mid-2021. 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 it left some ambiguities. Most notably, the zoning code doesn’t explicitly define the term “DJ’s.” The council previously indicated that, while they didn’t want to regulate a bar employee playing music from a laptop or a phone, they did want to regulate professional DJs.
During the May 9 meeting, the council rejected Doc Ryan’s application because, on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the business asked to be able to have DJs play from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. – well past the 11 p.m. time limit. As for Shortstop’s latest application, Commissioner Joe Byrnes agued that the request to “play live music from a laptop or have acoustical live music” on Friday evenings and weekends was too broad. He felt that they should be specific about which type of performance will happen at what time.
“I think they have to specifically put in the application, when they’re going to have an acoustic guitar player or when they’re going to have laptop,” Byrnes said.
Commissioner Jessica Voogd said that she personally found even the “play[ing] the music from the laptop” language too vague, since it could be a bar employer or a professional DJ.
Mayor Rory Hoskins, who also serves as the village’s liquor license commissioner, said that Sorice should have known better than to leave any ambiguities.
“We’ve indicated to the licensees that we want a certain level of specificity, and some of them, for whatever reason, are resistant,” he said. “We don’t have to approve this application. It’s up for your consideration. I think sometimes they submit these out of abundance of caution, they don’t want to be shut down. But if they don’t provide enough information for council pleasure, we don’t have to approve it.”
Commissioners Maria Maxham and Ryan Nero suggested approving the application with amendments, to allow one or the other, but the rest of the council members weren’t interested in that, and they joined the other commissioners in denying the application.
Sorice didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline.