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City yanks license for Saluki Bar

By Geoff Ritter
updated: 9/25/2020 10:01 AM

Carbondale leaders voted last week to revoke indefinitely a popular bar's liquor license following weeks of friction between the bar and the city.

The city's local liquor control commission voted 4-3 Tuesday to revoke the liquor license for Saluki Bar N' Grill and Levels, located at 760 E. Grand Ave.

The commission, made up of Mayor Mike Henry and members of the city council, took an unusual step in pulling the license, seeming to contradict an earlier recommendation made by the city's own hearing officer.

The conflict stems from a June 2 incident in which police officers determined shots had been fired from the Saluki Bar N' Grill and Levels parking lot. Two days later, Mayor Mike Henry, acting as chairman of the local liquor commission, issued an order closing the bar for five days for reasons of public safety.

The bar never actually closed, though, and on June 9, the commission's hearing officer heard testimony and arguments from both sides, ultimately issuing an opinion saying the city didn't meet the burden of proving the bar had failed to properly control its own premises -- in this case, the parking lot.

Tuesday's action could have been as simple as the commission simply accepting the hearing officer's report. City attorney Jamie Snyder, however, contended that a host of other mitigating factors, including the bar's alleged failure to control its occupancy and slow the spread of COVID-19, warranted the commissioners looking beyond the hearing officer's report.

"What I'm asking the commission to do here is unprecedented and an extreme measure," Snyder said. "Given the current pandemic, the national unrest of unequal justice, I find it hard not to recommend that the city council accept the findings of fact that modify the hearing officer's recommendation. This establishment and its owner, Austin Knoob, have shown that it has no intentions of complying with the ordinances of the city of Carbondale and the guidelines of the Illinois Department of Public Health."

Attorney Alfred Sanders, representing Knoob, pushed back against that suggestion, telling the commissioners to remain focused on the issue at hand.

"The problem is, none of this is relevant to the hearing tonight," Sanders said. "The only thing you're supposed to be talking about tonight is what the hearing officer heard evidence of back in June. So basically, we've had a trial, and now they're coming back and wanting you to decide issues that happened after the fact without them ever being presented to the hearing officer."

After nearly 90 minutes of debate and questioning, commissioners narrowly passed the measure revoking the license, with Jeff Doherty, Lee Fronabarger and Carolin Harvey voting against. Chairman Henry cast the deciding vote.

Another hearing next month will address the bar's failure to close following the mayor's initial order in June.

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