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Joliet City Council rejects phase-out of 3 a.m. liquor sales

Joliet City Council member Larry Hug
Joliet City Council member Larry Hug

The days of grabbing a six-pack at the tavern in the wee hours of the morning appear to be far from over in Joliet.

The City Council on Tuesday rejected a plan to phase out the license allowing sales of packaged liquor sales at bars and taverns as late as 3 a.m.

The proposal had two parts, both of which failed.

No council member would even make a motion to bring to a vote a new $2,500 fee for the Class A license, up from the existing fee of $1,200.

Another ordinance that would have capped the number of Class A licenses at the 32 that exist now was turned down by a 6-2 vote.

Council member Larry Hug, who voted for the cap on new licenses, was the most vocal opponent of the higher fee, which he described as gouging the current license holders.

“I’m not comfortable gouging existing businesses that have built their business model,” Hug said.

The $2,500 fee is based on what New Lenox charges for the same license and was designed to be an “incentive” to encourage businesses to give up the license, Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis told the council.

Regis said only three neighboring towns allow 3 a.m. packaged liquor sales at bars – New Lenox, Plainfield and Lockport – and they all charge more than Joliet.

“What we see time and time again is that the existing fee and license structure in the city of Joliet is not in line with the area. It’s not in line with local communities,” Regis said. “Most communities do not allow this type of license at all. The ones that do assess higher fees than Joliet does.”

Regis compared the proposal for Class A licenses to measures taken in Aurora and Elgin to phase out the license.

Hug noted that the cost of a Class A license in Elgin is $1,500.

“They’re phasing it out at $1,500,” he said. “They’re not gouging them at $2,500.”

Council member Michael Turk questioned whether any hearing was held on the phase-out plan.

There was no hearing.

The proposal to phase out the Class A license was brought to the council by Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, also the city’s liquor commissioner. O’Dekirk did not make a case for the proposal, leaving that to Regis.

O’Dekirk did provide council members with a list of the 32 businesses that have Class A licenses.

A staff memo on the proposal states that the Class A license was designed for neighborhood taverns but now “creates liquor stores which are open until 3 a.m. A true liquor store [Class C] must close at midnight.”

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