Liquor Quarrels, Independence Day And The Signs of Our Time?

Freeport, Illinois – Publicly, it starts with a post. “LOGAN’S NEEDS YOUR HELP! This is NOT how small business should be treated by Mayor Gitz!

Certainly a title that grabs your attention, but, what exactly is going on here behind the scenes with the city of Freeport and Logan’s Bar & Grill?

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t heard, it appears the liquor license for Logan’s Bar & Grill is up for renewal.  Of course, no you probably didn’t know that because why would you.  Why would you know, or really care for that matter, that anyone’s license is up for renewal, especially an established local favorite like Logan’s Bar & Grill. It’s not something we as consumers really pay attention to. At least, not until the license gets threatened.

Well, it appears Logan’s liquor license has hit that wall.

By both parties statements an unnamed person, (some local liquor license tattle tale apparently) told Mayor Gitz that the exact ownership of Logan’s that was submitted to the city with their liquor license. was inaccurate. Nothing has been confirmed and this hidden source hasn’t been revealed or come out of hiding, its just at this stage, an accusation.

Okay.

Naturally, you might think, fine then, no need to sound the fire alarm, lets just get the submitting party on the horn and straighten this out, right? If there is a problem, lets change the name and get the ball rolling. You know, like your drivers license, or checking account perhaps. Just update the info (if it is incorrect) and move on, right? Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

Well, hold on to your shot glass, because apparently there’s some red tape the parties have to go through now as a result of this unknown person’s allegations. Red tape, that has both parties making direct and indirect public statements about each other in the media and red tape – that could also ultimately take away Logan’s liquor license.

In his weekly article which Mayor Gitz sends to the Journal Standard, the Mayor stated, “When I received information from a source that one of our local establishments had submitted ownership information to the city that was inaccurate, I took the complaint seriously. This was not bar room rumor; this was information provided by a person with allegedly firsthand information.

According to the Mayor’s statements, he referred it to legal counsel for “investigation and disposition”.  Logan’s on the other hand, went public immediately.

Now keep in mind, this isn’t Jimmy’s Juice stand setup in some dark alley somewhere selling grandpa’s moonshine. This is Logan’s.

Logan’s is an established, reputable business in town and as far as the people are concerned, they support the people who serve them and the people who run the Logan’s restaurant. People have an idea of who’s in charge and as consumers, have all gotten to know the Logan’s staff a little along the way too. They are good to the people, so the people support them back. It’s not a very complicated relationship.

As we all know however, anything to do with the government just doesn’t work that way but, just hang on a second here. Unknown Source? Who is this “unknown informant” that went to our Freeport City Mayor and brought up the allegation of inaccurate ownership information? Is this a scene out of Miami Vice? Wouldn’t you just call Logan’s and say, hey, I noticed a problem that you might want to address? Why go to the Mayor?

One answer, might be because you’re trying to cause heartache for someone. Certainly a reasonable assumption. Your intention isn’t to help, it’s to cause harm.  Another, could be because you’re an ethical person and you noticed something amiss, like say, someone speeding so you called the police. We all do that right? When we see someone speeding, or their address is wrong on their license, or say you see a mom yelling at her kid in Wal-Mart, don’t we all immediately call the police or DCFS? Start an investigation?

Second, if you are the Mayor, wouldn’t you just pick up the phone and call Logan’s owners directly? Would your first stop be the city’s Legal Department to start an investigation? According to one Logan’s owner, “so far the mayor has not told me why we are being denied“. They also stated, “the mayor will not tell me what the issues are. I am unable to answer questions they have (as I don’t have their questions)“.

Yet today, the Mayor issues a public commentary relating to these very same issues with a local bar and its liquor license. In other words, we’ve resorted to talking through the media now versus talking with each other directly it appears.

According to the Mayor, the mayor is also the liquor commissioner.  The Mayor stated, “as the liquor commissioner, I am responsible for enforcing our code“.  As such he goes on to say, “I took the complaint seriously“.

That’s good. We need to enforce our code and our laws. We doubt you’ll find many people who wouldn’t agree with that. However, this is just an issue with ownership of Logan’s information, right? It’s just an alleged discrepancy with who owns Logan’s and what is on the Liquor license, yes? Did Alahiem and Raheeb from Pakistan just fill out an application for a liquor license? It’s not really that big of a deal, is it?  Couldn’t we just have picked up the phone and given Logan’s a call and straightened the matter out? Besides, aren’t we all subject to error and minor infractions?

You know, like those little things like 5 mph over the speed limit, or not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign? Does your drivers license, your home or your privilege to talk on telephones need to be threatened because of it? No, of course it doesn’t, that’s absurd, but, the law is the law, right? I mean, the law applies to everyone equally, doesn’t it?  Or does it.

So what do we care?

Well, maybe it’s just us, but we find it sad that our city is engaged in this banter back and forth through our local media, especially in our newspaper towards one of our small businesses.

IMG_9309As if the public banter between our city leaders and our small business in the public media isn’t bad enough though, in a more recent event, some of you may have noticed this sign gracing West street next to the Cub Foods parking lot.

Related to Logan’s? Just some disgruntled citizen? We have no idea, but isn’t the sign a little unfair?

We’ll be the first to tell you that you have a right to protest. You have the right to stand for, or against, anything or anyone you want, but with a sign such as this, our question is why?

Okay, “no Mayor Gitz”, we got your point, but “why” no Mayor Gitz? What’s the issue? Unfortunately the sign doesn’t say.

Further though, what if this sign said “No McDonald’s” or “No JD’s Pet Paradise”? What if it said “no” to any one of our small businesses, (or worse, our people)? Certainly well within someone’s right to protest like this, but is this what we want to see around town? Is this how we notice the public of a problem, explain our stance on an issue and get public support behind us, or is this an unfair attack against our Mayor without proper explanation as to why?  What if it was your name?

Now, while these two may not be related to each other in any way, and we are not implying they are, (because frankly, we have no idea) truth is when “according to code”, or within “procedure” an individual is refrained from speaking with you directly (or refuses) yet, can make public comments in the media (or on the street) indirectly (or directly) relating to you, Houston, we have a problem.

One of the things I always taught my children as they were growing up was “let idiots be idiots alone“.  I would say that if ever a time presented itself where someone was saying something negative about them, (a bully) or someone was trying to argue over something completely unworthy of time and response.

People talk and say all kinds of things. Just because someone says something, doesn’t mean it warrants a response and usually, the response only manages to fuel the fire. So, I would tell my children “let idiots be idiots alone, don’t be one with them“. It only works against the responding party when you don’t follow that rule. It’s not a golden rule, but it is a rule nonetheless.

Now, while we don’t know the exact conversations that may or may not have taken place between the Mayor and Logan’s directly, it does seem to be clear they are not communicating. The Mayor didn’t indicate any such reference to communication in his article either.

He also didn’t mention that these issues were already explained to this local bar, he didn’t say he’s working with the local establishment to resolve any issue, he just defended his position and affirmed his stance on keeping within code and seeking legal investigation.

Again, while we don’t know, we would suspect that the breakdown in communication is not because Logan’s or its owners are avoiding the city’s request to cooperate with them. We have no indication the city has even made that (or any) request. The Mayor did say this is not at the hearing stage and that it is in the fact gathering stage, so it doesn’t appear either party is refrained from communicating. That just makes the situation all the more strange. How does it get this far?

The other reason we care is because frankly, we just don’t like the way this whole thing smells. We don’t like unknown sources, we don’t like what appears to be a petty thing affecting our small businesses and we don’t like our city and our small businesses arguing and beating their chest in the public. It’s just leaves a bad taste all around. Secret informants, undercover investigations, mayoral conspiracies? What is this? The Kardashians? Breaking Bad? Where’s Rodney King when we need him.

Maybe there is a discrepancy with Logan’s owners, maybe there isn’t. Maybe their documents of incorporation say one thing (which by the way can be found in 37 seconds online) and maybe their liquor license says another. Maybe everything is in order and is correct and all of this is nothing. We’re not suggesting throw away laws, ignore code, but give us a break here.

Logan’s is one of our own. It’s a clean, reputable, very nice establishment that provides a fun place to hang out and a family place for people to bring their children to. When it comes to bars, places like Logan’s welcome everyone. No riff raff, no fights in the parking lot (like other bars in town), Logan’s is a good clean place with nice local people who work there.

Doesn’t a place like that deserve a little small town courtesy? A phone call, a respectful attempt at resolve? Did they get that? We don’t know, but doesn’t a source coming to you who wishes to be anonymous make you immediately take a step back anyway? Maybe there’s a bigger issue here though. Our city isn’t the only town that has thrown small business investment away for the apparent greener national chain pastures.

Regardless of whether the name on the liquor license is accurate or not, our city can’t afford another black stain on its record with the people.  Our small businesses can’t afford that hit either.

If the people of Freeport lose a business over an issue regarding accuracy of company owner names, the people will be in an outrage. Right, wrong or indifferent, they will blame the city of Freeport. We’re not suggesting a right or wrong opinion as the outcome of this unfolds, we’re simply saying if we lose a small business over an issue such as this, it will not be good.

Give the people underage drinking. Give them a bad environment. Give them drugs or something of substance. Give them a stain on Monica Lewinsky’s dress. Don’t give them the “name is inaccurate” followed by “according to some mysterious source”, now your under investigation and then expect the people to fall in line while the unknown possibility of a small business closing is prevalent because of a line of city code.

Equally as the city has the right (or obligation) to its “investigation and disposition”, Logan’s has a right to call upon their customers for public support. Logan’s isn’t avoiding the city. They are not in hiding. They are by all appearances begging the city to communicate and help them resolve whatever the issue is with the inaccurate information, if there even is any. They are asking, to be a part of fixing whatever happens to be the problem. That however, doesn’t appear to be an option.

So, while Logan’s screams for cooperation and communication and while its customers prepare to back them on these issues that count to them, according to the city, “the only thing that counts is whether there is reasonable evidence of ownership irregularities” further stating that, “this is not a poll or a popularity contest“.

As a media that represents the people, we have to disagree. While sure, perhaps according to city code that may be true, where the government seems to always fail the people is in it’s understanding of the very people to which it serves.  To see that in action one only need to look at the perspectives of both parties and really, this entire situation overall. Secret sources, company owner names, investigation, public banter? C’mon here.

The people don’t want riff-raff businesses or business owners and they don’t want illegal liquor licences handed out to every Tom, Dick or Harry either, but clearly Logan’s doesn’t fit that description. Maybe this is just standard procedure (minus the secret informant) and Logan’s overreacted and has nothing to worry about, or maybe the Mayor could have been more personable and handled this directly with one of our established businesses before mis-communication (or lack of, if such is the case) turned into public mutiny. In either case, we hope this isn’t as bad as it smells.

Lack of communication, hidden informants and a public media quarrel may make for good drama, but at the end of the day this is our small little town of Freeport where we’re supposed to bind together to make each of us stronger.  Even in times of trouble, mistakes or what can often be simple innocent oversight, we’re supposed to be here for each other, not work against each other.  Our view, this doesn’t appear to be working together.

To the people’s credit, when even the slightest stench of betrayal in that equation occurs, make no mistake, the people of Freeport will bind together to protect their own. To the city’s credit, thank God for so much of what they do here. I am reminded of that every time I turn the faucet on, however the community is more than capable of weeding out the bad, keeping the good and believe it or not, the people have a pretty good sense of right and wrong. That may not always fit into some government rule, law or city code, but since when was life about a line of code and mysterious rumors anyway.

Yes, we live by laws and yes, we live under certain rules, but life is about people and in this particular case, reputable people. In a small town such as Freeport, people matter more than ever.

Once we lose sight of that, regardless of what the situation is, we all lose.

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