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posted: 5/15/2014 5:30 AM

Libertyville officials take no action on cutting bar hours

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Bar hours in Libertyville won't be reduced for the foreseeable future as village officials took no action after hearing from business owners, patrons and employees.

A one-hour reduction in closing time to 1 a.m. weekdays and to 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays was among the proposed liquor licensing changes considered Tuesday night by the village board.

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Trimming hours was suggested by the police department as a way to cut down on calls for service in the early morning hours. The suggestion had been recommended by the board's license and permits committee, but the full board unanimously decided not to pursue it after more than 90 minutes of public input.

"Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised," Trustee Jim Moran said of the decision. Moran had opposed the measure during an earlier informal discussion because of the negative economic impact.

"We've spent years becoming a great destination for restaurants and taverns and this kind of countered that momentum," he said.

During the public comment period, the board was told that many final-hour patrons were employees of other local businesses whose establishments were not open that late.

"Most of the late-night business isn't the trouble makers, it's the service industry people," said Ed Downing, owner of Downing's Tavern. His is one of three or four establishments that stay open until 2 a.m. weeknights and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. "They'll get off work and they want to go out for a drink," he added.

Downing estimated that during a week, an average of 10 percent of his business comes during the final hour. He said he was happy with the village board's decision.

"I 'm thinking it shouldn't be a big deal now. I don't see us being a problem," he said.

Mayor Terry Weppler noted there was a reported battery early Saturday at another late-night bar that tied up police for two hours. No injuries were observed but a Round Lake man was charged and released.

"I truly think that before the meeting, the board probably was leaning toward closing an hour early," Weppler said. But the perception changed after the public comment, he added.

"The change of hours should be a last resort," he said.

Moran said there hasn't been a spike in serious offenses, but the police calls generally are for lesser matters, such as noise complaints or urinating in public. He said conditions of the liquor licenses already provide the village with options, such as fines or suspensions, if there is trouble at a given location.

"Working individually with the bars seemed to be a better idea," he said. "I think that's more fair and seems to suit everybody."

Weppler said the situation would be monitored and possibly reassessed in three or four months.

The board approved new licensing classifications for limited tasting and consumption on premises where beer, wine or spirits are sold, as well as for bring-your-own liquor for restaurants and entertainment venues. It also agreed to double the number of allowed wine and beer tastings to 150 per year.

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