EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — East Dubuque City Council members voted Monday night to lift the rule limiting the number of bars that can stay open until 3:30 a.m.
The move was the latest that potentially could expand the hours of operation of the city’s liquor license holders after an unsuccessful push to reduce them over crime concerns.
The city has two liquor license classes — one that allows establishments to stay open until 1:30 a.m. and another, more-expensive license that allows taverns to stay open until 3:30 a.m.
Until now, no more than four of the latter licenses could be issued.
Council members voted unanimously Monday night to lift that cap.
The decision came out of discussions regarding questions from the current holders of those licenses, who asked if the license could transfer with their business in the event of it being sold.
City Manager Loras Herrig told council members that state law does not allow the licenses to be tied to a business. When a business closes or ownership changes, the previous license is lost.
A new owner would have to reapply — and, in the case of the licenses that allow a 3:30 a.m. closing time, there is no guarantee that the license would be secured by that new owner rather than another applicant, such as an existing business.
Council Member Dawn Stelpflug said it should be possible for owners of businesses with the 3:30 a.m. licenses to pass the business down to their children without the threat of the license being lost.
Herrig said council members can’t favor a liquor license applicant because of their connection to the previous license holder. He also questioned how the council would go about determining who would receive a license if there were multiple applicants.
“I don’t like picking winners and losers,” Herrig said.
Council Member Adam Arling said the city either needs to eliminate the 3:30 liquor license or lift the cap on such licenses.
“Eliminating that number would solve the problem that we are having,” Arling said. “Then whoever gets the license is purely at the council’s discretion.”
Herrig said he would prefer eliminating later closing times altogether.
East Dubuque still has a maximum limit of 25 total liquor licenses that can be issued in the city. Herrig said there are 22 license holders now.
“It’s possible that all of those could be 3:30 licenses,” Herrig said. “It’s all up to the council to decide if that will be the case.”
The move comes about a month and a half after Herrig recommended a 2 a.m. closing time for liquor license holders.
Proponents of the move said it would reduce the number of criminal incidents occurring downtown after 2 a.m. But the majority of council members balked at the proposal, and the 3:30 a.m. closing times remain in place for those four establishments.
Earlier this month, council members voted to allow other liquor license holders to stay open until 2 a.m., rather than 1:30. That change will take effect in January.