The Cook County Circuit Court ruled that Mayor Rory Hoskins’ original decision to revoke Forest Park Tap Room’s liquor license back on Aug. 16, 2021 was justified, overruling the Illinois Liquor Control Commission’s ruling that his decision lacked sufficient legal grounds.
The latest legal development is something of a moot point. Since the liquor commission ordered the liquor license reinstated, Hoskins declined to renew the Tap Room’s liquor license after a months-long hearing process. But during the Jan. 9 village council meeting, the mayor, who also serves as the village liquor commission, framed the circuit court ruling as a vindication of the village’s original legal process.
The Review was unable to obtain a copy of the ruling by deadline. Hoskins said the circuit court originally ruled in the village’s favor on Dec. 9, and that Jan. 9 was the last day either the Tap Room or the liquor commission could file an appeal. He said that, according to the village attorney, neither side did by the end of the business day.
Brothers Hansel and Lance Law, who co-owned the Berwyn Tap Room bar, opened the Forest Park Tap Room on Oct. 23, 2020 inside the former Healy’s Westside space at 7321 Madison St. It faced multiple complaints about loud music, fights and violating COVID-19 mitigation limits in place at the time. Hoskins suspended the license three times and revoked it after finding that the bar had remained open after hours.
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, at the time, required it to close at midnight.
When the liquor license came up for renewal on April 30, 2022, Hoskins denied the license due to previous issues, as well as the Law brothers allegedly lying to village officials in their original liquor license application about Berwyn Tap Room’s record and Hansel Law’s 2019 arrest for domestic battery. The Law brothers appealed and, after three months and over 12 hours of public hearings, Hoskins upheld the ruling against the Forest Park Tap Room.
William Rivera, Berwyn Tap Room’s third co-owner who is currently suing the Law brothers for perjury and financial fraud, said he hadn’t heard anything about the Circuit Court decision.
“I find the biggest winner in all this is the Law brothers’ lawyer,” he mused.
Hoskins said the circuit court’s decision validates Forest Park’s process for handling liquor license violations.
“There have been questions about whether our regulations were up to snuff and sufficiently strong,” he said, adding that, between the ruling and Tap Room’s and liquor commissions’ decisions not to appeal, “I think we were well-justified in our ruling.”