A restaurant in north suburban Zion did not violate a local ordinance that requires 50 seats in a restaurant in order for alcohol to be served, an appeals court has affirmed.
The Inn at Market Square, owned by Market Square Hospitality, had been ordered to pay $1,000 after it was found by both the Zion Liquor Control Commission and the state of Illinois to be in violation of the ordinance, which states alcohol can only be served “in restaurants of 50 seats or more but only at tables during that period when patrons are offered a complete meal."
Following an administrative review, a Lake County judge reversed the decision of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. Zion Mayor Albert Hill, who served as the local liquor control commissioner, and the ILCC appealed.
The Illinois Second District Appellate Court, in a ruling penned by Justice Mary Seminara-Schostok with Justices Michael Burke and Donald Hudson concurring, stated: "The determination of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission that the plaintiff had violated a local ordinance that required it to have at least 50 seats in its restaurant when it was serving alcohol was clearly erroneous."
The appeal centered on whether Callie's restaurant and gift shop, situated within the 84-room hotel, was in compliance with the ordinance on one day in March 2016, when a police officer visited for a meal and reported that he counted 36 usable chairs.
Officer James Krein reported that there were chairs at tables where merchandise was displayed. Other tables that could comfortably seat four people had eight chairs, it was claimed.
The hotel's managing director, Delaine Rogers, told the local liquor commission and later the state and the circuit court, that she created the floor plan, which includes nine tables with 50 chairs around them, as well as three at the bar area.
Hill, however, decided that a photograph revealed “clear evidence of its attempt to stretch the concept of what a reasonable person would consider as suitable seating for four persons attempting to eat a complete meal.”
The Inn at Market Square appealed, but the decision was affirmed by the state commission. Administrative Judge Richard Haymaker, following a hearing, ruled that, while it was" possible for complete meals to be served to diners at each of the seats in Callie’s, that would create an 'elbow to elbow' dining experience," according to the appeals court ruling.
After the ILCC affirmed this decision, the case made its way to the circuit court, which ruled the ILCC was wrong.
"There is no dispute that Callie’s had 50 chairs on the day in question," Seminara-Schostok wrote. "Rogers testified to that fact. Officer Krein’s testimony did not contradict Rogers’ testimony on this point as he acknowledged that he did not count all of the seats in the restaurant."
She added: "Rather, he testified that he only counted those seats which he believed could be used to enjoy a complete meal. In its recommendation for disposition, ALJ Hayward found that the floor plan and pictures entered into the record did depict a total of 50 seats."
The court further stated there was no question that alcohol was served at any place other than the tables.
"Thus, based on this plain reading of the ordinance, the plaintiff was complying with the law. The ILCC’s determination that the plaintiff was in violation of the ordinance therefore was clearly erroneous," the justice ruled. "The ordinance does not mandate that anyone, let alone 50 people, must buy a complete meal in order to purchase alcohol. It only requires that patrons be sitting at a table when they have the option of purchasing a complete meal."