Some bars wary of liquor-license switch in East Dubuque

EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — Despite being provided a less-expensive option, half of East Dubuque’s liquor license holders recently chose to stick with their current licenses.

City Council members this week approved renewing 22 liquor licenses. Eleven were for the city’s newly created Class H license, which requires that businesses close at 11 p.m. and has a reduced renewal cost of $800.

The city also offers a Class C liquor license for $1,200, which has a required closing time of 2 a.m., and a Class B liquor license for $2,850, which has the latest closing time of 3:30 a.m.

Two of the four Class B liquor license holders opted for the Class H option. The Other Side and Mulgrew’s Tavern and Restaurant paid to maintain their Class B liquor licenses.

However, current COVID-19-prompted restrictions require all bars in the state to close by 11 p.m.

The Class H license was adopted by council members in November as a less-expensive option while the state restrictions are in place. Once those restrictions are lifted, the city would grant businesses their regular licenses once they pay an offset cost.

“We figured it would be a nice gesture that allowed our bars and restaurants to save some money,” said City Manager Loras Herrig. “Right now, there isn’t a real reason to hold a license that allows you to stay open late when the state won’t allow it.”

Herrig said he was surprised when he saw that only half of the businesses chose the new option and theorized that some license holders might not trust the city’s professed intentions.

“Earlier this year, I led an effort to have the bars close earlier, so it could be that they think this is some way to trick them into closing earlier,” Herrig said, referring to his unsuccessful push to have all bars close by 2 a.m. “I’m honestly not sure what they are thinking.”

Mike Meyer, owner of the Other Side, said he chose to maintain his Class B license because he is confident that the state restrictions soon will be lifted. He also simply did not want to change it.

“That’s how it has always been,” Meyer said. “I really appreciate what the city is offering. It was nice of them to do, but I will stick with what I have now.”

Tim Althaus, owner of Family Beer & Liquor, said he chose to maintain his Class C liquor license to avoid the extra paperwork to re-transfer the license when the state restrictions are lifted.

“We were envisioning the restrictions lifting in the near future, and we wanted to get our license taken care of for the year,” Althaus said. “It was just the easier way of doing things.”

Herrig said the businesses that did adopt the Class H liquor license should be able to reacquire their old licenses quickly after state restrictions are lifted.

“We hopefully don’t have a pandemic for all of next year,” he said. “When things do change, we’ll get everyone switched back over.”