Liquor panel critical of BlackFinn suspension process
By Hank Beckman For The Sun December 6, 2012 9:14PM
Updated: January 8, 2013 6:34AM
BlackFinn American Saloon at 16 W. Jefferson Ave. recently served three days with a suspension of its late night liquor permit.
Since there were no incidents during that time, the downtown Naperville restaurant and watering hole didn’t have to serve the remaining four days of its late night suspension.
While most people involved in the affair seem to think that the establishment is now on the same page as city officials when it comes to policing its more rowdy patrons, ruffled feathers remain among some of Naperville’s Liquor Commission members.
“I’m still upset about the way this was handled,” commission member Jack Barry said at the group’s Thursday meeeting.
Barry said he thought the city’s attempt to deal with problems at the bar were troubling because he learned of the situation from a friend’s phone call.
“This commission was not involved,” he said. “Why are we here?”
BlackFinn was penalized for four violations of the liquor code. The city initiated a meeting with BlackFinn on Nov. 5, after which an agreement was reached where BlackFinn officials admitted to four violations of the code.
The four violations of code were unrelated to any specific incident. Two of them involved the restaurant’s general manager and assistant manager failing to go through the city’s training for servers of alcohol. The other two violations were related to misrepresentations on BlackFinn’s current application for a liquor license. In one instance, the application failed to note a previous license suspension in 2011. The other involved an alcohol-related offense by an employee which was not disclosed on the application.
BlackFinn at that point had been in the news because of an Oct. 27 altercation that actually occurred outside its premises and resulted in the arrest of four people, none on whom were from Naperville.
Since the recent suspension of the late night permit, the only call to the police concerning BlackFinn has been to deal with a drunken citizen that was trying to get in the establishment.
Liquor Commission members, particularly Jack McCambridge and Scott Wehrli, agreed with Barry that the suspension process was flawed. Although not mentioned by name, the remarks were addressed to Mayor George Pradel, who doubles as the city’s liquor commissioner, and he seemed to shoulder the bulk of the criticism.
“I didn’t think we should be commenting about punishment until we talked to our people,” he said, referring to the city’s legal department and police force.
Pradel also said that the situation required quick action.
“It came about really, really, fast,” he said.
Pradel stressed that people who wanted action on a particular grievance against an establishment might have a misconception of his powers as liquor commissioner.
“Everyone thinks the liquor commissioner can shut people down on a moment’s notice,” he said. “But that’s not true. By law, you have to have a hearing.”
But Pradel did say that the commission members should have been notified about the BlackFinn situation.
“That was an oversight on my part,” he said.
City Attorney Jill Pelka-Wilger said that the situation was one that arose from a formal complaint, but resulted in a negotiated agreement between the city and BlackFinn.
“Between (monthly) meetings, we don’t always have the time to meet with you,” she said.
But the message that communication was lacking hit home.
“You will be notified,” Pelka-Wilger said of future cases.