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Hearing officer recommends $1,750 fine for Normal pub violating state indoor dining ban

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NORMAL — A liquor hearing officer is recommending Joe's Station House Pizza Pub to pay $1,750 for violating local liquor code by continuing to offer indoor service.

Todd Greenburg, an independent hearing officer on behalf of the Normal Liquor Commission, found the 305 N. Veterans Parkway business in violation of the liquor code by offering indoor food and bar service despite state-issued COVID-19 bans.

Greenburg, a Bloomington-Normal attorney, is recommending the Normal Liquor Commission issue three fines for violations: a $250 fine for the first violation; a $500 fine for the second; and a $1,000 fine for the third.

The Normal Liquor Commission will consider Greenburg's recommendation Monday night before the Town Council meeting.

Greenville lawyer Tom Devore, representing pub owners Joe and Tony Wargo, said they will appeal to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission if the Normal Liquor Commission agrees with the recommendation.

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"It's absurd for anyone to take the position that an executive order is tantamount to a state law," said DeVore. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed an executive order Nov. 14 prohibiting indoor dining following a spike in coronavirus cases. The ban was lifted earlier this month upon the state entering Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan.

In his letter to the Normal Liquor Commission and pub owners, Greenburg said the fines "are an attempt to send the message that violations of the law must carry penalties."

The decision follows a Jan. 5 liquor commission hearing in which the town presented evidence of the violations, including witness testimonies from three Normal police officers.

It was the town's first hearing since COVID rules kicked in.

The Normal Liquor Commission meeting will begin at 6:45 p.m. Monday and will be livestreamed through the town's YouTube page.

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Contact Sierra Henry at 309-820-3234. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_sierrahenry.


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