Evanston bars react to The Keg’s closing

Marshall Cohen

One week after The Keg of Evanston lost its liquor license, several local bar owners are taking steps to ensure they won’t follow down the same path as the now-defunct student hotspot.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl decided Jan. 30 to revoke the liquor license of The Keg of Evanston, 810 Grove St., after city lawyers alleged at a hearing of the Liquor Control Review Board that the downtown bar was a regional haven for underage drinking.

The Evanston Police Department served the revocation notice earlier that morning. The doors were locked and the lights were off by late afternoon.

University President Morton Schapiro told The Daily last week he predicts the “market will work” in terms of students who are of age finding another place to socialize.

“I think the market will respond and they will have other places to go,” Schapiro, a well-known economist, said. “I would think other places would open up.”

In conversations with The Daily, local bar owners distanced themselves from The Keg and insisted that preventing underage drinking continues to be a top priority – especially after last week’s news.

Rohit Sahajpal, the owner of Tommy Nevin’s Pub, 1454 Sherman Ave., said he considers the fight against underage drinking a nightly battle. He said he combats the problem by assuring his employees know their jobs depend on preventing minors from entering the bar.

“We’re concerned about it every single day, and we’re doing our due diligence to make sure that only mature adults are in here and having a good time,” Sahajpal said. “The doorperson’s sole responsibility is to ensure that we don’t have minors in here.”

To weed out underage drinkers, Sahajpal said his bouncers check two forms of identification at the door. Nevin’s staff undergoes training, and the bar works with EPD to make sure that the laws are being followed.

The Keg’s owner Tom Migon said during the Jan. 27 liquor board hearing he began requiring two forms of identification after the city shut down his bar for two days in 2010 when an underage patron was injured during a fight. However, Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington said some of the accepted forms of ID lacked critical information, including photos and birth dates.

EPD has issued 111 alcohol-related citations at The Keg since 2005, according to the mayor’s report. Sahajpal said there have only been three or four alcohol-related citations issued at Nevin’s during the same time frame.

“We’ve never had more than one in a year,” Sahajpal said.

Bar Louie, 1520 Sherman Ave., takes a slightly different approach to preventing underage drinking. The downtown bar and restaurant only allows patrons 21 and over to enter the establishment after 11 p.m.

“At those times, not having anyone under 21 helps because kids will often try to order extra drinks and give it to their friends,” assistant manager Rachel Forgash said. “So that is not an issue because the people who are underage can’t even be in our restaurant.”

Forgash said she never expected The Keg to lose its liquor license but added she doesn’t fear droves of underage Northwestern students will now try to slip into Bar Louie.

“We’re not afraid because we’re very adamant about carding,” she said. “We’d love to take all the of-age business that is available now that The Keg isn’t open, but we’re not willing to compromise our reputation by serving alcohol to minors.”

By revoking The Keg’s liquor license, Tisdahl may have created a void for the late-night student crowd, and local bars are already competing for a share of that large clientele base.

Sahajpal said he hopes to capture the attention of Kellogg School of Management students who “don’t really have any place to go anymore.”

He said talks are already underway for a Kellogg student who also works as a DJ to set up shop at Nevin’s every Tuesday night in an attempt to attract more graduate students.

Forgash said Bar Louie hasn’t yet reached out to the Kellogg population. However, she said her establishment has held upscale Kellogg events in the past and looks forward to hosting more events in the future now that The Keg is effectively closed.

The Keg owner Tom Migon did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment over the weekend.

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