Liquor licensees hit with $10,000 fines
CHICAGO — Two liquor license holders in Champaign-Urbana have been slapped with $10,000 fines and multi-day license suspensions for repeated state liquor law violations.
The penalties were levied by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission against the Mac's Convenience Store at 1821 S. Philo Road, U, and the Clybourne, a Campustown bar at 706 S. Sixth St., C.
The commission also has revoked the liquor license of Shirley's Oasis in Penfield for failure to pay state withholding and sales taxes.
"When and if they pay up, they can reopen," said Sue Hofer, a spokeswoman for the commission.
She said she could not disclose how much money the business owed the state.
"Our last resort is shutting someone down. We work very hard to help taxpayers get caught up because we can't collect taxes on businesses that aren't open anymore," she said. "We tend to do this only when it appears virtually impossible for someone to come back to current. With the economy the way it is, it's not an uncommon thing."
Meanwhile, the two $10,000 fines against local businesses are for repeated offenses: three by the Clybourne and four by the Mac's store, which also does business as a Circle K store. The four Mac's violations were in March 2009, January 2011, March 2012 and August 2012.
"You just don't run into too many people who get that many violations," said Steve Schnorf, the acting chairman of the liquor commission.
In addition to the fines, the Clybourne was hit with a seven-day license suspension. Mac's received a 10-day suspension.
Schnorf said the commission has levied four $10,000 fines in the last month, an unusually large number for underage offenses.
"They are the most we've ever levied for these kinds of violations," he said. "We levied a fine of $200,000 or $300,000 a couple of years ago against a Chicago package store for different violations. But the sale of alcohol to a minor, a $10,000 fine and a seven-to-10-day suspension, that's the highest penalty for sales to minors that we've imposed in the 10 years I've been on the commission."
The penalties are not appealable in the two local cases, he said, because both businesses admitted to the offenses.
"What we do at a hearing is, we ask the person if they want to stipulate that the offense took place. In effect, do you want to plead guilty or do you want a trial? In both of these cases they stipulated, so there would not be an opportunity for them to appeal," he said.
Mac's stipulated to the offenses at a hearing in Chicago on Wednesday. It is expected to begin its 10-day suspension either later this month or in early January, Schnorf said.
All of the violations came by way of an undercover operation using minor volunteers and officers from the Illinois State Police and the liquor commission.
"This is their fourth offense in 31/2 years," Schorf said of Mac's. "They told us effectively this story: the minor that is part of the sting comes in and asks for a pack of cigarettes. The clerk cards him and notes that he is 19 — old enough to buy cigarettes — the clerk then turns to get the cigarettes and turns back and in the meantime the kid also has put a six-pack on the counter. The story that they were telling us was that the clerk was confused, had already carded the kid and that this wasn't fair. It was subterfuge on our part.
"We were fairly impatient with that answer."
The Clybourne admitted to the offenses at a meeting in Springfield two weeks ago. It apparently began its seven-day suspension on Tuesday.
The liquor control commission also levied a $750 fine and a one-day license suspension against the Firehaus, 708 S. Sixth St., C, for serving to a minor.