Preliminary discussions of changing Grundy County liquor license hours brought two unincorporated bar owners before the Grundy County Rules Committee Friday.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, Don Hansen, owner of Honest Abe's in Morris, as well as the owners of Gippers II in Coal City, spoke against the changing of the county's hours for bars.
The bar owners had heard that the committee had discussed changing the hours of bars located in unincorporated areas of the county to match the city of Morris' hours. Currently, on the weekends the bars in unincorporated areas close at 2 a.m. Those in Morris close at 1 a.m.
Committee member Ann Gill said that, in a meeting prior to the new county board members taking their seats, committee Chairman Eric Rasmusson brought up the idea of looking into this. Rasmusson was not present at Friday's meeting.
In a phone call Monday, Rasmusson said he wanted the committee to look at the hours for safety reasons.
Rasmusson said he was concerned the county was encouraging people to drive after drinking to other bars that are open later than bars in the city of Morris. He is in the process of collecting data from the Illinois Department of Transportation to see if there is an increase in accidents from 1 to 2 a.m.
All he's been able to get is that accidents increase after 6 p.m., but nothing specific on the data from 1 to 2 a.m, he said.
He is doing more research, but it is not his intention to hurt anyone's business, he said. He just wants to make sure the county is providing a safe environment for its residents.
"It quite possibly could take me out of business. The last hour is critical to the bar business," said Hansen, owner of Honest Abe's.
Hansen said the county should be comparing their hours to other counties, not the city of Morris. Bars in unincorporated La Salle and Will counties stay open until 3 a.m., he said. If anything, Grundy should look at extending the hours, Hansen added.
Hansen and the owners of Gippers II both agreed that shortening their hours would just make people drive to other counties to drink later, which endangers them more by them driving farther.
"This is the first time in the 10 years I've been on the board that it's come up. I'm sure they would talk to the people affected by it (before acting on it). A decision like this has to be before the full county board," said Ron Severson, county board chairman.
Gill said all of the previous discussions were preliminary and they were waiting for more information from Rasmusson.
"I joined the county board to bring business to Grundy County, not to chase it away, so you've got my vote on your side," said Harold Vota, vice chairman of the Rules Committee.
The Rules Committee meets next at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 4.