Latin American Social Club fined $1,000
Liquor commission keeps license intact
|Peter Castro, bar manager for the Latin American Social Club, answers questions Wednesday morning during a hearing with the Sterling Liquor Commission on charges of liquor code violations during an event Feb. 18. He said a suspension or loss of its liquor license would be devastating to the club. “There’ll be no Latin American Club,” he said. (Alex T. Paschalemail@example.com)|
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STERLING – The Latin American Social Club was fined $1,000 Wednesday for hosting an event in February that involved sexual activity and nudity.
But Sterling’s Liquor Commission declined to revoke or suspend the club’s liquor license after club officials said such an action would devastate their organization.
The commission met Wednesday morning to determine how it should respond to an event the club held on Feb. 18.
According to a hearing notice sent to the LASC, the club violated the city liquor code by allowing the “performance and simulation” of sexual activity, among other things.
Matt Klahn represented the Latin American Social Club during the hearing. He said the club admitted that some of the activities in the hearing notice did occur.
Klahn said the facility had been rented to a group on Feb. 18. He also acknowledged a “lack of supervision” of what occurred inside the building that day.
Peter Castro is the liquor license holder for the club. He also is bar manager and assistant to the board of directors. On Wednesday, he was sworn in to answer questions about the incident.
Castro told the commission he was not present at the club on Feb. 18 after recently having had his right leg amputated. He was away from the club for several months, until March, he said.
Castro said the club board had a meeting on Tuesday night, the day before the liquor commission hearing, to address the need for change. The board adopted a resolution agreeing not to get involved with such activities in the future and to be “more careful” about all events at the site.
Many positive activities are held at the club, Castro said, including benefits for any group that wants to use the building.
He said many quinceañeras were scheduled for this summer, an important coming-of-age celebration in Hispanic culture.
“We rent the hall on Saturdays for weddings and dances,” he said. “We’re booked solid on most of the months [this summer].”
Castro said the club is struggling financially.
“We’re going from week to week, month to month, to say afloat, to serve the community,” he said.
When Klahn asked what effect a long-term suspension of the liquor license would have on the facility, Castro said it would be devastating.
“It would be the same as revoking our license; we won’t have nothing,” he said. “There’ll be no Latin American Club.”
Castro agreed that club members could benefit from more training. He also said he would help to train bartenders and security officials at the club.
As part of the penalty and agreement, Sterling City Attorney Ron Coplan set a suggested guideline of 60 days for the club to modify its bylaws to account for the new resolution that was approved.
The club has the opportunity to cut its fine in half, to $500.
“During that 60-day period, the licensee may generate credits against that fine by training its employees so that they are conversant not only with the ordinances in the city of Sterling but also with the laws of the state of Illinois,” Coplan said.
The training can be completed online through Beverage Alcohol Sellers and Servers Education and Training, or BASSET, he said. The cost of taking the course, which comes with a certificate, is $25 per person, Coplan said.
For each person who takes the course, the club can receive a credit. The training must be completed within 60 days. Certificates must be presented to the liquor commission.
The remaining balance on the fine will then be calculated.
Before the commission went into closed session to discuss the fine, Klahn asked members to consider the impact of a revocation or suspension of the club’s license.
Skip Lee, who is Sterling’s mayor and liquor commissioner, said the three-member panel considered several factors.
“The fact is, they have a good history here in the city of Sterling, have been very involved,” he said after the meeting. “They have events booked. … The purpose of what we’re trying to do here today is to get their attention, not annihilate them.
“We felt that if we suspended the license, the ones who would ultimately be hurt are those people who have their benefits and their quinceañeras all scheduled.”
That’s why the commission decided not to consider a suspension of the facility’s liquor license. But he said he wants to ensure such a violation doesn’t occur again.
“The concern is to make sure the Latin American Club, who has been very embarrassed by this ... by fining them, but allowing for the BASSET training and allowing for the by-laws incorporation, then we make sure this never happens again,” Lee said.
Lee said he had witnessed a “downward spiral” in recent years at the club. He expressed hope that the liquor commission hearing and the fine assessed would change things for the better.
“The future of the Latin American Social Club is in the hands of the members of the Latin American Social Club,” the mayor said. “I think from this instant, it’s time for the members of that organization to get together and decide their destiny.”
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