City Council approves new bar licenses, hours

Cassie Buchman, City Editor

Several new ordinances regarding alcohol licenses and bar hours of operation were approved at the Charleston City Council meeting Tuesday.

Bar establishments will now be required to be open 10 hours a week in order for their liquor license to be renewed, which is to be measured over a 12-week period.

This ordinance, along with other ordinances regarding alcohol, was placed on file for public inspection at the last city council meeting.

Mayor Larry Rennels spoke with seven different liquor license owners, along with Student Standards and Health Services, other university organizations, and the Illinois State Liquor Commission.

Rennels said the intent behind the ordinance was to keep people from having the license if they were not using it.

“The liquor license is a privilege,” said Rennels. “And in most cases, if you don’t use a privilege, you lose it.”

Another intent was to allow other businesses to use the liquor license if another establishment is not using it.

The ordinance originally made it so establishments needed to be open 15 hours a week.

Rennels proposed to change the requirement after speaking to some liquor license holders. The change to 10 hours a week was established to help businesses that might have trouble having longer hours.

“We would do the same thing we wanted to do, but it wouldn’t be a burden (on businesses) that aren’t open every day,” Rennels said.

Also passed was a new ordinance of a trial run to lengthen the bar’s hours of operation by an hour.

This trial will allow bars to open until 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

It will automatically revert back to the regular hours on Aug. 1.

“This will give us time to evaluate and see if (the longer hours) has served its purpose,” Rennels said.

Reasons for this is to keep people from congregating in the parking lots of bars when they closed, to see if it will have an impact on reducing after-hour house parties.

Another reason is to encourage people to stay in Charleston as opposed to going to other towns with longer bar hours.

In order to reduce house parties, a proposal was passed to stop the selling of packaged liquors at 1 a.m., which Rennels discussed with bar and liquor store owners.

Another significant change is requiring any bar employee in charge of checking ID cards or serving alcohol, to pass an alcohol-training program.

The ordinance was changed from employees needing 30 days of training to 60. The training is available online.

Rennels is considering the possibility of having members of the Charleston Police Department deliver the training to liquor license holders and their employees.

He will also try to make the training under a free or reduced charge.

Council members also voted on determining the maximum number of liquor licenses themselves, rather than basing it on the census.

Current code states the number of licenses available increases with the census, whenever a new one is provided.

“This is pretty difficult to keep track of because when the census occurs, we change the number of liquor licenses,” Rennels said.

A state statue states city council has the authority to determine the number, the kind and the class of licenses by ordinance and resolution.

This will give city council the authority to decrease or increase the number of liquor licenses whenever they desire.

The next city council meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3 in in City Hall, 520 Jackson Ave.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].