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Liquor License Flap Nearly Shutters Popular Beer Garden Washington Commons

By Sonja Sharp | April 2, 2013 10:15am
 Strife between neighbors and the Prospect Heights hangout nearly cost the bar its liquor license Monday night.
Strife between neighbors and the Prospect Heights hangout nearly cost the bar its liquor license Monday night.
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PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Prospect Heights' most popular summertime spot narrowly escaped last call on Monday night, after a liquor license flap landed it in hot water with Community Board 8.

Technically, beer garden Washington Commons lost its liquor license on Sunday, when its latest two-year renewal expired. A narrowly-failed bid by CB8's State Liquor Authority committee  would have forced the boozy backyard hangout to apply for a brand new license, one that would likely have left it shuttered for weeks and scaled back its hours from 4 a.m. daily to midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

"We have serious issues that keep creeping up year after year," said committee member Atim Oton,  among several members to express irritation at addressing a trio of managers rather than the establishment's owner, who declined to appear. "For you to wait until your license expires after four years in business surprises me."

Neighbors say they're sick and tired of the the bar and its rowdy patrons, who they say fill the 100-seat yard to capacity on hot summer nights, smoking more weed than American Spirits, and hurling beer bottles onto their fire escapes.

"You don't sleep at night because you're waiting for them to go home to go to bed," said neighbor Yvonne Small, 43, a school teacher who has lived in her building for more than 20 years and was among more than a dozen irate residents who came to air their grievances against the bar. "In the summer when it's big you can hear them from Underhill [Avenue]. I pray for winter all year long."

If upheld by the State Liquor Authority, the compromise renewal plan approved by CB8's board late Monday would force the bar to tear out seats in its pretty and profitable beer garden, and shut down outdoor service by 11 p.m., at least two hours earlier than at comparable local establishments. 

That's a good start, neighbors said, though it doesn't solve the problem of drunken daytime revelers — or their noisy kids.

"For us, we have to hear their constant noise. When they get drunk, it's the worst night ever," Small complained. "They have kids back there — who takes kids to a bar?"

But the board's recommendation also demanded that the bar enter into formal mediation with its neighbors as a condition of its liquor license renewal, and included a strongly worded warning about mending fences in the community.

"Four and a half years ago this issue was not the issue it is today," said manager Kevin Mulvaney, who promised that the bar would reach out to a mediator before CB8's full board meeting next Thursday. "I want everybody to know, we hear what you're saying."