Full story: Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl revokes The Keg’s liquor license

Marshall Cohen

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl has revoked the liquor license of The Keg of Evanston, 810 Grove St., according to a statement issued by the city Monday.

“It is always an extremely difficult decision to revoke a license of a local business, but I have to also consider the health and welfare of the community as a whole,” Tisdahl said in a statement. “Serving minors alcohol is a serious matter that cannot be left unaddressed.”

The seven-page order was signed by Tisdahl, who also serves as liquor board commissioner, and approved by top city attorney Grant Farrar.

The commander of the investigations divisions at the Evanston Police Department personally served the revocation notice to The Keg’s owner Tom Migon earlier Monday morning, said EPD spokesman Cmdr. Jay Parrott.

The notice was also posted on the front of the building and said, “liquor shall not be sold, delivered, served or consumed at this establishment effective immediately.”

As of 5 p.m. Monday, the doors at The Keg were locked and no lights were on inside.

“No liquor can be served on the premises,” Parrott said. “But The Keg technically can open and sell food because his business has not been closed. Only his liquor license has been revoked.”

EPD Chief Richard Eddington recommended Tisdahl to revoke the bar’s license during a Friday hearing of the Liquor Control Review Board, where the city’s attorney tried to prove The Keg was a haven for underage drinking in Evanston.

The Keg was ranked ninth-best college bar in America by Complex magazine in 2011. But after 19 people were cited at the bar for underage drinking earlier this month, the city raised questions about The Keg’s ID enforcement.

The bar was temporarily closed on two previous occasions before losing its liquor license Monday. It was shut down for seven days in 2005 after a 19-year-old shot and killed another patron at the bar, and was closed again for two days in 2010 when an underage patron was injured during a fight.

Liquor control is “unquestionably a matter involved in public health, safety, morals and welfare” and therefore, the city holds broad regulatory powers, according to the order issued by the mayor.

The report found The Keg had “repeatedly and willfully” failed to comply with city codes and regulations regarding alcohol sales, and it pointed to the 147 citations issued at the bar since 2005 as evidence. Out of those 147 citations, 111 were alcohol-related.

Ald. Don Wilson (4th), whose ward includes The Keg, told The Daily shortly before the decision was issued that the situation was “disappointing” but local business “need to follow the rules and they need to follow them closely.”

“I’m a grown up, and I realize people don’t follow the rules,” Wilson said. “But businesses should endeavor to make sure that what happens in their place is compliant and that’s my expectation of everyone that does business in Evanston.”

While presenting evidence during the Friday hearing, the city’s lawyer quoted several posts from a Twitter account they alleged was owned and operated by The Keg’s owner. One tweet said “The Keg knows no age, especially if you’re under 21.”

The mayor’s order said the tweets “offer incontrovertible proof that The Keg, through its use of social media, expressly incited, encouraged, and assisted underage patrons in coming to The Keg and consuming alcohol.”

However, The Daily reported Sunday that a Northwestern student who graduated last year was behind the @kegofevanston account. That student told NU Intel in February he assumed the tweets were “so outrageous” that “no one would think” it was actually connected to the downtown bar.

The account was deleted Friday after a final message was posted stating “this was and always has been unaffiliated with The Keg of Evanston and was only meant to be in good fun.”

City spokesman Eric Palmer declined to comment Monday but said he discussed the matter with the city’s legal department.

Now that the bar will be effectively shut down, Parrott said EPD can “direct its resources elsewhere” instead of spending time responding to responding to fights, other incidents and periodically checking the bar for underage drinking.

“Those type of incidents generate resources and time, and the officers then go down to investigate the complaints instead of patrolling other areas of the city,” Parrott said. “The resource drain is an accurate portrayal.”

The order officially bans Keg owner Tom Migon from applying for an Evanston liquor license in the future. Migon did not return multiple messages seeking comment Monday.

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