Capitol Club Reopens during appeals
by CYRYL JAKUBOWSKI
The Capitol Club, 4244 N. Milwaukee Ave., reopened after a Circuit Court judge ruled on Oct. 4 that the owner could operate the business and serve liquor while he appeals the revocation of his liquor and business licenses process.
The city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection ordered the closing of the club in July after the License Appeal Commission again upheld the revocation of its liquor and business licenses in June.
Nightclub owner Chester Kiercul said that Judge Sophia Hall allowed him to reopen the club. "That’s more than 2 and a half months that I have been closed," Kiercul said. "What about the money that I lost?"
The department revoked the club’s public place of amusement license and food license last August after the owner allegedly did not cooperate with a police investigation stemming from an incident in December of 2009, according the license appeal commission.
Kiercul appealed the department’s decision, and the commission heard the appeal in April. Kiercul filed a petition for a rehearing on April 25, and he was able to operate the business and serve liquor during the appeal process.
The business has been closed because the commission upheld it’s original revocation ruling on June 4 after Kiercul’s lawyer filed the petition for a rehearing days late. However, Kiercul said that the judge overlooked the tardiness and was ready to hear the appeal but that the city said that it was not ready to proceed with its case.
Kiercul said that his next hearing will be on Oct. 18. "I’m fighting with these people on a bureaucratic level," he said. "After 30 years in business in this area and all the taxes and all the money I paid they should be giving me a medal."
Alderman John Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said that the judge allowed Kiercul to reopen the business during the appeal process but that the city will continue in its efforts to enforce the liquor commission’s decisions.
"Chester has had many opportunities to cooperate and have that club brought up to speed, and in many instances he did," Brugh said. "The alderman certainly welcomes all businesses in the area, but businesses that follow the law."
Brugh said that the club has had numerous incidents over the years, including a shooting last year that promoted the alderman to call the city for an inspection of the club and start a dialog with the owner.
Business affairs department spokeswoman Jennifer Lipford said in the past that filing a petition for a rehearing with the appeals commission is a formality needed in order to seek to have the case heard in Circuit Court.
The appeal commission upheld the revocation of the licenses in April 25, even though it did not concur with all of the findings of the hearing commissioner. One of the charges that the commission reviewed was that on Dec. 13, 2009, Kiercul allegedly failed to cooperate with a police investigation of illegal activity in the club and to truthfully answer questions posed by officers.
Last year Kiercul was cited for minor building violations after a Department of Buildings task force conducted an inspection of the business in February that was triggered by a shooting in the club’s parking lot. The business was cited for having an expired certificate for a pool table and for not having a permit for a sign over the public way.
The department’s Web site shows numerous building violations over the years at the club, which failed inspections conducted by the task force in 2010 and 2011.
Three men were shot at about 2:45 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, during an altercation in the parking lot, according to 16th (Jefferson Park) District police. A man and a woman, both age 24, reported that they got into a fight with a man who retrieved a handgun from his car and fired several shots, hitting two men, age 22 and 25, in the leg and a 28-year-old man in the chest, according to police.
Arena said the inspection was ordered as a way of starting a conversation with the owner so that he would be held accountable for what occurs at the nightclub. The area around the club has had a number of problems occur over the years, including a brawl which was filmed and posted online in 2010.
Arena has said this year that since the process began, the owner has operated the business "better, but that doesn’t erase your past infractions."
The License Appeal Commission at its April 3 meeting summarized events from Dec. 13, 2009, in which officers were called to the nightclub and found a battery victim outside the club, according to the commission. Kiercul did not give officers security tapes that they requested, and an investigation found that an employee cleaned up the blood that was on the floor in the club, which contaminated a crime scene, according to the commission.
However, the appeal commission determined that the problem with that finding was that the owner was never charged with contaminating a crime scene and there was no evidence that anyone instructed the owner not to clean up the blood, and it reversed the finding that the owner failed to cooperate under the city municipal code by ordering the clean-up of the blood.
"Everybody in the 16th District knows that that was a bogus incident and that I was ready to cooperate," Kiercul said.
The hearing commissioner determined that revocation of the license was appropriate, but the commission found that the hearing commissioner failed to indicate whether the revocation was appropriate for either of the failures to cooperate, which could be a basis for a reversal by the Circuit Court.