STERLING – The city pulled the Latin American Social Club's liquor license Monday after learning that the club's state license expired Aug. 31.
According to state statute, an establishment must already have a state liquor license to get a local one. The club, at 2708 W. Lincolnway, doesn't have video gambling terminals, which also requires a state license.
When the club tried to renew its state license, it was told that there were record-keeping issues that must be addressed before that could happen. The club also owes $3,500 in fines plus its $775 license renewal fee.
There are no violations pending with the city at this time, said Mayor Skip Lee, who also serves as liquor commissioner. City Council members Joe Martin and Retha Elston also are on the Liquor Commission.
"The issues they have with the state are administrative in nature – there are no city violations – and they are trying diligently to get those things worked out," Lee said.
The club came to the city to report its status with the state. City officials began hearing about the situation on Aug. 30, but with the holiday weekend, didn't get confirmation until club President Roman Sotelo notified the city clerk on Sept. 3.
"Between last Tuesday and Friday, our job then became to set up a meeting with the state to get details on what they can and can't do going forward," Lee said.
That meeting was held Monday with an Illinois Liquor Control Commission special agent. Sotelo, City Manager Scott Shumard and Police Chief Tim Morgan also were at the meeting.
The issues with the state date back to 2014, Sotelo said.
"Before my time as president, there were record-keeping violations that had never been taken care of – things like tracking daily liquor sales," Sotelo said. "There was a lack of communication between the previous administration and the liquor commission."
The club will get its city license back as soon as the state renews theirs, the mayor said.
"The club has been making a solid effort to get its financial and administrative house in order," Lee said. "The current administration is trying to play by the rules."
Sotelo said he had no idea how long it might take for the club to regain its licenses. In the meantime, not selling alcohol will put additional financial stress on a nonprofit that has been struggling to keep its doors open.
"We are finally in good standing with our bills, and then this just kind of came out of nowhere," Sotelo said.
When Sotelo took over as president in January 2018, he was faced with many challenges that have threatened the club's existence. The nonprofit was behind on its mortgage and utilities and it has been working to boost membership and increase revenue through donations, special events and facility rentals.
The club also has suffered from many years of infighting and has tried to repair its image, which has been tarnished by past liquor code violations.