Back in 2008, the Brookfield Village Board decided to forego handing out any more 4 a.m. liquor licenses, letting the few that still existed phase out as businesses changed hands.
In two weeks, the board appears poised to eliminate the 4 a.m. licenses all together, effective Jan. 1, 2015.
Police Chief Steven Stelter railed against the late-night licenses at the village board’s committee of the whole meeting on Sept. 22, calling the 4 a.m. closing time “a thing of the past.”
“I tell people we still have 4 a.m. licenses and they can’t believe it, in this day and time when there’s so much emphasis on alcohol and emphasis on DUI,” Stelter said.
There are just three establishments in Brookfield — Brixie’s Saloon, 9526 Ogden Ave.; Cordial Inn, 9207 31st St.; and Traxx Side Bar and Grill, 8436 Brookfield Ave. — that hold Class 1 liquor licenses, which allow the bars to stay open until 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Christopher DiBraccio, the manager of Brixie’s, said eliminating the bar’s 4 a.m. license would cripple it.
“We have shaped our business to serve people with the late-night license,” said DiBraccio. “It’s one of the big components to our business.”
DiBraccio disputed Stelter’s and Village President Kit Ketchmark’s contention that there were no longer enough late-shift workers looking for a quick drink after the job to make much of an impact.
He said Brixie’s, which has been in Brookfield since 1934, catered to restaurant workers and hospital staff, second-shift and third-shift workers all make up his late-night clientele.
“To paint them with one brush is not fair to them and not fair to the people that come into my establishment late at night,” DiBraccio said.
John Benedetto, owner of Traxx Side Bar and Grill, which had the least number of post-2 a.m. incidents (15) of the three late-night license holders since 2010, said he paid a premium to buy his business, because it had a 4 a.m. license.
About 25 percent of the revenue Traxx Side collects from video gaming comes after 2 a.m., Benedetto said.
“This will just cut our throats,” said Benedetto, who has his business up for sale.
Stelter rattled off a litany of police responses to incidents at all three establishments, emphasizing that most of the most troublesome and violent occur after 2 a.m.
According to numbers compiled by Brookfield Police Lt. James Episcopo, officers have responded to 165 emergency calls (98 at Brixie’s alone) at those three bars since the beginning of 2010, with 105 of those calls coming between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m.
Notably, said Stelter, the vast majority of “criminal” incidents also take place after 2 a.m. on weekend nights. Prior to 2 a.m., Brookfield police reported just 14 criminal incidents at the three 4 a.m. license businesses.
After 2 a.m., Brookfield police responded to 85 criminal incidents, including a large-scale brawl in which a man’s jaw was broken outside the Cordial Inn in April and a stabbing outside Brixie’s in February. Both of those incidents occurred at about 4 a.m.
Police later ruled that the stabbing outside Brixie’s was in self-defense. But as a result of the brawl outside the Cordial Inn in April, in which the offender and several other bar patrons were found to be younger than 21 years old, the bar’s liquor license was suspended for a weekend and the owner fined $1,500.
“Brookfield is a wonderful town, and as I’ve proven here with these stats, 2 to 4 a.m. is a dangerous time of the night,” said Stelter. “The majority of our arrests are non-residents. What they’re doing is going to other bars that have to close at 1 or 2 o’clock and then race over here to Brookfield for a couple more hours to get more drinks down their throat.”
Don Volpe, owner of Cordial Inn, admitted that his bar had been an increasing source of incidents since 2012, but said things had quieted down after the April incident. Volpe told the village board he had hired more bouncers and had purchased card readers to detect fake IDs being used by minors.
“I feel like I have it under control,” Volpe said.
In their survey of criminal incidents, police included violent incidents such as fights, but they also included unwanted subject calls, which typically resulted in a patron being turned away from a tavern without incident.
In the case of Brixie’s, about 25 percent of the 63 criminal incidents reported by police were unwanted subject calls.
Lumping those calls in with violent incidents skews the numbers, said DiBraccio, and penalizes taverns which are doing the right thing by turning away highly intoxicated patrons.
“When we’re calling for assistance, everything goes against us,” said DiBraccio, who said Brixie’s generates the most calls because it’s the busiest tavern in the village late at night.
“This is the busiest time of night for us,” he said. “When you’re busier you have more incidents.”
Village trustees mainly listened at the Sept. 22 meeting, with none revealing where they personally stood on the issue. Only Ketchmark appeared to be publicly leaning against the 4 a.m. licenses. However, no one rose to defend them, either.
“If you look at the severity of some of these incidents … how do we balance what tax revenue we bring in from 2 to 4 o’clock in the morning with public safety, public image and public health?” Ketchmark said.