By Ted Schnell • BocaJump | Oct. 13
One late-night drinking establishment accepted a $1,600 fine and agreed to end mixed martial arts bouts because of 16 police calls, including a stabbing, in a 12-month period. But a nightclub where police officers were hurt trying to break up a violent outdoor brawl will go unpunished.
Members of the Elgin City Council, who met Wednesday afternoon as the Elgin Liquor Control Commission, appeared satisfied with the fine and bout ban for the Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery, 2300 Bushwood Drive, although they expressed surprise that the city’s liquor code does not expressly forbid organized fighting at such establishments.
Nonetheless, the commissioners approved the settlement with Tilted Kilt after Elgin Corporation Counsel Bill Cogley said he is satisfied with the deal, as well as with the measures the pub’s management has taken, including additional training of bouncers, bartenders and other staff on dealing with potential fights between patrons.
Cogley, who introduced to the commission the Tilted Kilt’s attorney, Warren Fuller, said the pub has been working with the city and the Elgin Police Department to minimize further problems at the establishment, which largely have revolved around fights between patrons, particularly between November and February, when 10 of the 16 incidents requiring police occurred.
“Tilted Kilt has taken a number of steps which have dramatically improved the circumstances and operation of the establishment over the past couple of months,” Cogley told the commission. “They have, I think, taken some comprehensive steps to address some of the disorder that was going on there … It seems like the problem of fighting customers has subsided there.”
While outlining the stipulated agreement, Cogley noted that none of the police calls to the Tilted Kilt occurred on evenings when mixed martial arts bouts were held. Cogley pointed out that while the liquor ordinance does forbid illegal fights, it does not specifically prohibit such bouts. Still, he said, after discussions, particularly with Mayor David Kaptain, the city took the position that such bouts should not be allowed without the Liquor Control Commission’s express approval, and Tilted Kilt agreed to that stance.
Fuller said the Tilted Kilt’s last such bout would be Thursday, Oct. 13, but only because the pub’s contract for the bouts did not expire until then. He said the tilted Kilt had entered into the contract with a local vendor to provide the bouts well before they became an issue for the city when it filed its complaint in July.
Surprise on the Afterset
But commissioners expressed outright disappointment and perhaps a trace of anger upon learning the city apparently has no authority — at least not yet — to punish the Afterset, 158 Symphony Way, for the July 30 brawl in which a couple of Elgin police officers who tried to break up a fight in the parking lot had to call for backup as the area filled up with as many as 200 people. The incident occurred about 3:30 a.m., a half hour before the club was to close for the night.
Cogley explained that under the city’s liquor code, one solitary incident involving a bar is not grounds by itself for such punishment as a fine or suspension of its liquor license.
Cogley, who characterized the incident, which occurred about 3:30 a.m., as “a very serious melee,” said it was dangerous for police officers, at least one of whom was injured. Elgin police made a number of arrests after the brawl, which at one pointed prompted the Elgin Police Department to issue a call for assistance from other area police agencies.
A review of police reports related to the establishment in the year leading up to the brawl found six incidents police recorded at the Afterset in the year before the brawl: four involved batteries, one involved trespassing and one incident in April involved overcrowding The Afterset has a rated capacity of 80 people, and on that particular day, Cogley said police counted 140 people inside the nightclub.
All told, Cogley said the incidents failed to establish a presumption of a nuisance, which is needed to under the law to pursue penalties, Cogley said.
However, he continued, there are enough anecdotal indications of problems at the nightclub based on police activity on the streets, sidewalks and public areas in its immediate vicinity, including batteries, disturbances, fights, obstruction and battery to a police officer.
“What we see in a number of instances are what appear to be disturbances or fights which are starting inside the premises, but by the time police are aware of them, the activity is not documented as inside the building but outside,” Cogley said.
While Cogley said the liquor ordinance requires establishments to keep order and peace on their premises, but that does not extend to the areas outside.
“I do not see an actionable level of police activity at the Afterset as of today for me to be able to file a complaint,” Cogley told the commission. Even so, he told the commission, there are some measures that ought to be taken at the nightclub in an effort to improve circumstances there.
Cogley said he and Police Chief Jeff Swoboda have discussed the issue and have devised a plan to better control activities.
The overcrowding issue is serious, Cogley said. While the April incident is the only one recorded by police in the past year, the crowd in the nightclub was nearly twice the Afterset’s capacity. Cogley also pointed to the July 30 brawl and the estimated 200 people who gathered in the parking lot area outside the bar as officers tried to break up the fight
To pressure the nightclub into compliance, Cogley said the police department’s liquor detail has begun stopping there every Friday and Saturday night to perform headcounts, and if the Afterset has just one more person in the club than the rated capacity of 80, police will shut it down for the rest of the night.
“If it’s overcrowded … it’s going to be closed on the spot and people told to go home,” Cogley said. “We’re going to take a zero-tolerate approach to overcrowding at the bar.”
Afterward, he added, the police department would file its reports with him so that Cogley could prepare complaints against the bar.
Cogley said the results already are promising.
Further, Cogley said, the city is pushing Afterset to set up and adhere to a “ban list” to keep away repeat troublemakers. The police department, he said, will assist Afterset in enforcing the list. Cogley described some of those who cause trouble when out drinking are known as “frequent fliers” because of their connections with multiple bar fights and brawls.The commission also voted Wednesday to approve a Class E-2 liquor license for Sammy’s Mexican Restaurant Inc., 3091 Route 20.