Attorneys' tempers flared Wednesday before the Elgin's liquor control commission ran out of time -- for the third time since April -- to make a decision regarding a downtown bar accused of liquor license violations.
The city alleges the Gasthaus Zur Linde operated as a nightclub without serving food in March 2013, which exceeds the scope of its liquor license, and served alcohol to a minor in May 2013.
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Gasthaus owner Marco Muscarello said he believes the city has been targeting his bar because of the possible redevelopment of the nearby Elgin Tower Building by Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co.
Muscarello says the bar's outdoor beer garden and parking lot conflict with overall plans for the building, whose sale is still pending.
"We're not accusing anyone of illegal activity; we're just saying it's prejudicial," said Muscarello's son, attorney Charles Muscarello, who represents the Gasthaus.
However, attorney Stephen Tousey, who represents the city, and Elgin Corporation Counsel William Cogley, who represents the liquor commission, said those arguments are irrelevant to the commission's proceedings.
Tousey called it "a fabrication of your own imagination."
The argument is "nonsense" and "irrelevant," Cogley said.
The minor, Adan Sandoval, was arrested after a stabbing outside the bar. In the previous incident, the bar hosted a private birthday party, during which a fight broke out and a shot was fired.
Marco Muscarello said he believed any concerns were resolved shortly after, during a conference call with Cogley and Elgin police in which Muscarello agreed to fire a couple of employees, implement a dress code and not play rap or hip hop music.
It was only after city officials realized the Gasthaus conflicts with the Tower Building plans that the liquor complaints were filed in August 2013, Marco Muscarello said.
The Gasthaus also has a pending lawsuit in Kane County against the city, in which it argues the city's allegations have no merit and that the commission -- which comprises all city council members -- has a conflict of interest regarding the Tower Building.
The U-class liquor license held by the Gasthaus "provides that primary business shall be the service of meals in a restaurant that also has an integrated tavern area," Tousey said.
Based on data provided by the Gasthaus, the bar's income from food in 2012 was about $29,000, or only 8.65 percent of the total proceeds, Tousey said.
The night of the March 2013 incident, only $46.50 worth of food was sold out of proceeds of more than $2,200, Tousey said.
That's because the bar didn't serve food as expected at the party and closed early because of the incident, Marco Muscarello said.
Muscarello also said Elgin police began targeting his bar with an increased presence after the liquor complaints were filed. That makes customers bypass the bar, because they are afraid to be stopped by police after drinking, he said.
"We don't target any business but we absolutely focus our resources at places where crime is or has been occurring," Elgin Police Jeff Swoboda said after the hearing.
The liquor commission will meet again July 9, when attorneys will make their closing arguments.