Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns told the owners of the EvenFlow nightclub Friday that being blinded by the light of celebrities was no excuse for breaking the law by keeping their club open past closing time.
"'National celebrities?' I find that humorous. I don't care if it is Jesus Christ and his disciples, they can take their wine elsewhere," Burns, also the city's liquor commissioner, told Nicholas Mercadante and Michael Knuth, the co-owners of the club at 302 W. State St. "That is not an excuse."
The duo admitted to keeping the club open and allowing patrons to stay inside past 2 a.m. Aug. 25, both city violations.
The charges stemmed from when Geneva police ticketed five people for public intoxication at 5:45 a.m. outside the club. One of them was a nightclub employee.
Several of the accused were in the area to attend a charity fundraiser hosted by television personality Jenny McCarthy at the Hotel Baker in St. Charles. They included Kelly M. Monaco of "General Hospital" and a "Dancing With The Stars" winner; Heath J. Freeman, who has been on the television shows "Bones" and "Raising the Bar"; Sergey A. Onik, a professional dancer who has appeared on "Dancing With The Stars" and who posted a picture of himself during the incident on his Twitter page with a caption, "What you going to do when they come for you."
The club owners had decided to let the guests stay "based on their youth and the attractiveness of the idea of nationally known celebrities patronizing their business," said their attorney, Thomas Schershel.
Mercadante and Knuth declined to comment after the hearing.
In a previous interview, Knuth said the group entered the club at 1:45 a.m. but that nobody at the club served them alcohol after 2 a.m. He said they were allowed to remain in the club while waiting for a cab "for safety's sake."
Schershel described the owners as young entrepreneurs ages 29 and 35 and said they promise this will not happen again.
It is the third time in less than a year the club has had liquor violations. In December, it was fined and its license suspended one day after Mercadante was caught drinking in the club at 4 a.m. In June, it was fined and its license suspended two days for selling to a minor.
"All in all, it has been a difficult first year of business for them," Schershel said.
Besides a $2,500 fine, the club's license will be suspended for 52 hours in October. From Oct. 1 to Oct. 15, it will have to close at midnight. From Oct. 16 to Oct. 31, it will have to close at midnight Sundays through Thursdays, and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
However, the club currently advertises that it closes at 7 p.m. on Sundays, and 1 a.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. It is not open Mondays.
About a dozen spectators attended the hearing, including Geneva Alderman Dean Kilburg and St. Charles aldermen Rita Payleitner and Maureen Lewis. Lewis and Payleitner said they were there to learn, as they are members of St. Charles' new liquor commission.
Burns reiterated that "closing" means nobody should be in the business, except employees cleaning and doing maintenance.
He also said he appreciated the time and money the duo has invested in trying to make the club a success and liven up downtown Geneva.
"I want to see that excitement continue," Burns said.