State liquor board hears The Keg of Evanston’s appeal, decision expected before summer

Marshall Cohen

The Keg of Evanston’s fate could be decided before the summer.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission will rule on The Keg’s appeal within three weeks, said Susan Hofer, a spokeswoman for the state liquor board. Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl revoked the liquor license of The Keg, 810 Grove St., in late January, a move owner Tom Migon later appealed.

Oral arguments were held May 9 in downtown Chicago, said Barry Holt, Migon’s attorney. Holt and Migon declined further comment about the case, citing the pending legal matter.

After the state liquor commission makes its decision, the case can further be appealed to the Circuit Court of Cook County and could reach a state appellate court, said liquor law attorney Harlan Powell.

Following Tisdahl’s decision in January, the popular student bar reopened March 8, citing automatic stay provisions in the Illinois Liquor Control Act.

During a Jan. 27 hearing of the city’s liquor board, Tisdahl, city attorney Grant Farrar and board members pressed Migon and his former attorney on the 147 related citations issued at the bar since 2005.

Police Chief Richard Eddington spoke in favor of revocation, pointing to a spike in recent incidents. Nineteen alcohol-related citations were issued in January alone – more than in six of the past seven years. There were only five total citations in 2011, according to city documents presented during the hearing.

Migon and former attorney Todd Stephens argued minors were using “perfect” fake IDs from China.

Hours before the bar reopened March 8, Migon issued a statement with a warning for underage Northwestern students and North Shore minors: stay away from The Keg.

“The Keg will become even more proactive in the prosecution of minors who attempt to gain admission to The Keg by using false or altered identification,” Migon said in the statement.

The bar also bought a Z22 mobile ID scanner, developed by Delaware-based TokenWorks Inc., in order to further deter minors, according to the statement. The 2007 model can read driver’s licenses with magnetic strips and bar codes from all 50 U.S. states and all 10 Canadian provinces, according to the TokenWorks website.

The scanners have a feature to prevent “passbacks,” when one patron uses an ID and discretely passes it back to a friend still waiting in line. This feature does not come standard in the Z22 scanner and costs an additional $50, according to the TokenWorks site. Holt said he was unaware if Migon purchased a model with the special feature.

However, TokenWorks President and CEO Charles Cagliostro told The Daily that his company’s scanners were not marketed “as fake ID checkers” and said computer software was needed to differentiate sophisticated fakes with holograms from legitimate IDs.

“We will catch some, but some depends on the quality of the fakes being presented,” Cagliostro said shortly after The Keg reopened. “There are fakes that are made by kids in college dorm rooms and then there are some that are made by organizations in China, and the quality of some is very high.”

The Evanston Police Department hasn’t issued any citations at The Keg since it reopened in March, spokesman Cmdr. Jay Parrott said Thursday. According to police records, there was only one Keg-related arrest since then. A 22-year-old McCormick junior was charged with disturbing the peace Sunday after causing a verbal disturbance near the bar.

Tisdahl declined to comment on the appeal. Holt said in an email he expects a decision from the state liquor commission before June 3.

Daniel Schlessinger contributed reporting.

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