No doubt about it; getting a liquor license in Chicago is much harder than you may think.
That’s because you’ll likely run into roadblocks—both legal and political.
My name is Francis Ostian.
And, I’m an attorney that specializes in liquor licensing. But, more importantly, I’m an expert at removing those legal and political roadblocks.
For you, that means I will get your local and state liquor licenses faster while avoiding costly mistakes. And, unnecessary time delays.
Here’s a sampling of liquor license nightmares that turned into amazing success stories for my clients (and their bank accounts)…
Restaurant Within 100-Feet of a Church Still Gets Liquor License! How’s This Possible?
My client asked me to get an Outdoor Patio Liquor License for his restaurant. This was no easy feat.
That’s because a church sits within 100-feet of the outdoor patio’s property line!
Just know: The Illinois liquor control statute says you cannot have a liquor license within 100-feet of a church.
For this reason, my team lobbied in Springfield to get an exception to that 100-foot prohibition passed. And, we succeeded!
In fact, the Illinois liquor control statute shows we got the law passed. And more importantly, this new law carved out an exception for my client.
Bottom line: If we didn’t get the Illinois General Assembly to pass this law, my client would never had gotten an Outdoor Patio Liquor License.
How a Chef, a Polish Menu and a Half-Dozen Pierogies Persuaded the City to Finally Grant a Liquor License to My Client
Zbigniew Firosz, a.k.a. ZB, applied for a restaurant liquor license for the Pink Krokodile Café.
At first, he used a different attorney and the city denied his application for a liquor license.
He got denied because the City believed he intended to operate a nightclub or tavern—and not a restaurant.
You see, next door to the Pink Krokodile Café was a problem nightclub with a late hour license. The fact is, the local police commander had to deal with drunken fights, peeing in the streets and other types of criminal activity.
The city revoked that nightclub’s license and shut it down. Point being, the city thought ZB was going to open up a similar problem club.
Now, here was the underlying problem:
How Could I Prove That My Client Would Operate a RESTAURANT Rather Than a Problem Nightclub Similar to the One That Got Shut Down?
So, I proposed the following idea to ZB, “Why don’t we prove to the City you are actually opening a restaurant, and not a nightclub.”
And, we did just exactly that!
I had ZB bring his Polish food to court, so he could prove that he was going to open up a restaurant. In addition, he showed his menu. And to top it all off, his chef was present during the hearing, too!
For all these reasons, the City changed its decision, and granted ZB his restaurant liquor license.
Bottom line: We proved to the court with ZB’s Polish food that he was going to open up a restaurant and… not a nightclub.
Popular Northside Diner Gets One of the Hardest Licenses to Get in Chicago!
I helped a busy pizzeria in Bucktown get its liquor license. But that’s not all. My client asked me to get him a Rooftop Liquor License for another restaurant he owned.
In case you don’t know and not everybody does…
A rooftop liquor license is… one of the hardest licenses to get in Chicago.
In order to get a rooftop liquor license, you have to get a Special Use Permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Mind you, this was not easy.
That’s because the residents objected to the rooftop license fearing it would be noisy. So, we met with the neighborhood leaders and got them to back down.
Bottom line: We got a ROOFTOP liquor license—which gave my client literally the ability to print money-on-demand.
Businesswoman Succeeds Against All Odds to Keep Gay and Lesbian Bar and New Restaurant OPEN–Despite a 1936 State Law!
A popular uptown Gay and Lesbian bar and adjacent restaurant faced imminent shutdown over a liquor license dispute.
To put it in a nutshell, the bar owner (name withheld for privacy reasons) applied for an incidental liquor license for her new restaurant located next door.
However, the City determined that her bar was less than 100-feet from a synagogue. Under a State Law from 1936, a liquor license cannot be issued when a licensee is within 100-feet of a church or place of worship. So, the City moved to shut down the existing bar.
This unexpected decision came as a shock.
That’s because a continuous liquor license and tavern have existed at my client’s location since 1944. And that doesn’t take into account that she owned it for 18-years!
She hired me to stop the City from shutting her down.
I lobbied several Aldermen to intervene, and we got the City to stop its shut down efforts. Which saved her bar and livelihood.
Partners Saddled with Department of Revenue Holds Get Liquor Licenses for New Hotel and Restaurant
A downtown Chicago hotel hired my firm to help it get a hotel liquor license. As well as an internal license for an upscale restaurant within the hotel (name withheld for privacy reasons.)
One problem though:
A group of partners owned this hotel. But, they couldn’t get either liquor license because some of the partners owned other hotels that owed taxes to the City.
Point being, if you have Department of Revenue “holds” on another business; it affects your application to get a liquor license for a new business.
Still, we were able to clarify that the debtor-partners were already on a payment plan regarding those taxes, and were in fact, making payments.
And because they were making payments on the tax holds for the other hotels, they were in compliance.
I showed City Hall that the debtor-partners complied with prior negotiated deals. And, as a result, we got the hold on the two liquor license applications removed.
The First Brewery in America to Manufacture Korean Sake
My client John Oh (now deceased) was the President of Uniko Enterprises, Incorporated—a cutting edge Korean brewery based in Niles, Illinois.
His brewery received an avalanche of publicity in the Korean community. All because it was the first brewery in America to manufacture Korean Sake called Slow City Makgeolli.
It was a unique product because he used all-natural ingredients and his bottle allowed for natural fermentation. As a result, his Sake offered his customers a deliciously sweet and milky taste.
In order to manufacture Makgeolli, John needed to get a federal and state of Illinois manufacturers’ license. And because of our contacts, we got him these licenses in less than three months.
John sold his product wholesale to Korean restaurants, nightclubs, and grocery stores. In fact, before passing away, he was on the fast track to dominating the Makgeolli Sake market in America.
You see, his competitors imported their Sake from South Korea while he made his product in Niles, Illinois.
And so, his fresh product gave him a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Nightclub Applies for a Cover Charge License and Then Gets Whacked with a 17-Day Closing!
A cover charge license is technically called a ‘Public Place of Amusement License’ or PPA for short.
By having this valuable license, nightclub operators can collect an entry fee at the door.
In fact, nightclubs can rake in $10,000, 25,000, 35,000, 50,000 dollars or more on a Friday and Saturday night if they have a PPA license.
That’s why my client (name withheld for privacy reasons) applied for this license. Soon thereafter, the city of Chicago granted and printed the PPA license.
Instead of handing it to me, the city alleged that my client had several fights on his premises. So, they wanted to suspend my client’s liquor license. And if client agreed to a 17-day suspension (closing,) the city would issue the PPA license then.
My pissed client complained, “Francis, if I’m forced to close my nightclub for 17-days, it will bury me!”
For that reason, I ran into court and sued the city of Chicago.
The City realized it was wrong and gave my client the PPA the same day I filed the suit. And so, my client did not have to close for 17-days.
Within a few hours after filing the lawsuit, the city gave my client his PPA license. And, I withdrew the lawsuit against the city.
By the way, my legal strategy and results were a FIRST in liquor licensing litigation!
Police Chief and Fire Department’s Battalion Commander Fail to Provide Ample Proof—Nightclub Reopens!
My client’s nightclub located in Bucktown has a 4:00 a.m. late hour license.
To cut short a long story, he (name withheld for privacy reasons) promoted urban themed shows.
Now, alleged fights broke out inside and outside the club during most shows.
Furthermore, nightclubs want to pack in as many people as possible. But if you have more people on the premises than allowed—it’s grounds for license revocation.
In other words, the City shuts you down for good!
With that said, there were allegations of OVER-OCCUPANCY in the nightclub on TWO SEPARATE DATES.
And the way it works is that the city files a complaint against the club. During the hearing (trial), the city attempts to prove the club was over-occupied.
As I stated, if the city proves the over-occupancy, they revoke your liquor license. And, you’re shut down forever!
At trial, I cross-examined the police commander and fire chief. I established that neither witness could prove the club was over-occupied on either date.
As a result, we won the trial. I got my client’s nightclub reopened.
River North Nightclub Gets 4:00 A.M. Late Hour License Despite Alderman’s Objection
No doubt about it, one of the most difficult liquor licenses to get in Chicago is the late hour license.
After all, most nightclubs close at 2:00 a.m. Only a small percentage of them have the coveted 4:00 a.m. late hour license. So if customers still want to drink after 2:00 a.m., they must leave most clubs to go to another club with a 4:00 a.m. license.
What’s interesting about my client’s nightclub (name withheld for privacy reasons) is this:
I got him the 4:00 a.m. late hour license over the objection of the then sitting alderman.
Typically, when an alderman objects, you don’t get the license. Period.
So, I had to put on a trial at the license appeal commission to overcome his objection. In a nutshell, he claimed that issuing a 4:00 a.m. license would unnecessarily disrupt all the neighborhood residents.
I proved, however, that there were only three residents within 500-feet of my client’s nightclub. Still, this was no walk-in-the-park for me.
On the one hand, I wanted to get the 4:00 a.m. license.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to embarrass or upset the alderman. That’s because he could make life difficult for my client. So…
What Did I Do to Win But NOT Embarrass the Alderman
During cross-examination at trial, I proved that only three registered voters lived within 500-feet of my client’s nightclub.
Point being, this was not a residential neighborhood. I also showed the alderman photographs of all the commercial properties within 500-feet. And so, I demonstrated this was a business district and not a residential district.
So YES, I contradicted the alderman’s argument that issuing a late hour license would disrupt the residents. But I contradicted his argument in a respectful manner, so as not to embarrass him.
In fact, I was so respectful that in the middle of my cross-examination, the alderman withdrew his objection.
Bottom line: I proved to the alderman and the court that I did my homework.
Again, I accomplished both objectives diplomatically.
And, as a result, my client got his 4:00 a.m. late hour license, and has been printing money ever since.
DISCLAIMER: The results are specific to the facts and legal circumstances of each of the clients’ cases and should not be used to form an expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case.