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updated: 1/11/2012 8:33 PM

Elgin bar fined for overcrowding

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Representatives of Elgin's Afterset bar left a liquor commission hearing Wednesday with a stern warning from Mayor David Kaptain, who said if overcrowding problems at the bar persist, the business could be in danger of losing its liquor license.

Police documented four instances between April and December 2011 when more than 80 people packed the bar, violating the occupancy limit.

Commissioner and Councilman Richard Dunne said he thought the fine should be more than the $1,000 recommended by Elgin Corp. Counsel William Cogley.

"It concerns me greatly that this is a violation of our life safety code, not just our liquor code," Dunne said.

Commissioner and Councilman John Prigge expressed his own concern that the bar committed the same offense four times before being brought forward for the single fine. On April 30, police found 141 people inside the building, 158 Symphony Way. On Oct. 29 they found 147 and shut the bar down immediately. Then they found 94 Nov. 20 and 95 Dec. 2, according to the complaint.

Cogley said the final three incidents were discovered because of much more diligent monitoring by the police department. Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said there haven't been any violations since Dec. 2 and just a few minor calls for disturbances nearby the bar.

Swoboda said the owners of the Afterset have been very cooperative of late, barring patrons who have caused trouble in the past and better training employees.

"We're optimistic that we'll continue to see calls for service go down," Swoboda said. "We'll always see some, but the number and severity of the calls should be less."

Afterset owners were fined $1,000 and must pay the fine within 30 days. As long as there are no more problems with overcrowding or major disturbances -- like a fight that drew a crowd of 200 people and prompted a commission hearing in October -- the Afterset license is not due for review until the spring.

Kaptain said the commission would be more severe with its ruling should the bar be at the heart of any problems in the meantime.

"You don't have people who can't count to 80 that work there," Kaptain said. "If you come back again, I'll be looking for suspension and it won't be one day. I think this is very serious. You put people at great risk in there."

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