UPDATE: A Rockford bar accused of breaking the law will remain closed for another week. Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey issued an additional seven day suspension of the Aviator Lounge's liquor license.
The south side business was recently shut down after police and the fire department discovered the business was operating over capacity without security and with a dance floor larger than 150 square feet which are all violations of the Aviator Lounge's liquor license.
Owners claim they are being harassed by and targeted by police because they and most of their clients are black. Police, city attorneys, and the city say race has nothing to do with anything.
For more information, please see the attached press releases.
ROCKFORD (WIFR) – A local bar owner says he’s being targeted by the city and claims Rockford Police are using race in their decision to shut the business down.
The owner of Aviator Lounge met with the city for a more than two hour meeting this afternoon to determine whether the bar will re-open. The south side business was recently shut down for serious safety violations and unruly crowds. Owners are claiming they’re being harassed by and targeted by police because they and most of their clients are black. Police, city attorneys, and the city say race has nothing to do with anything. Owners also claim the city used flawed evidence against them in a hearing in front of Rockford’s liquor control commission today.
"I just feel like it was thrown together, spur of the moment, they just wanted to shut me down,” said bar co-owner Brandon Barnes. “They didn't even take time to investigate right,” he claims.
"I find those allegations nothing more than a veiled, weak attempt to shirk responsibility for their actions and it's unacceptable,” said city attorney Jennifer Cacciapaglia. “If you're going to operate a business in the city of Rockford you're going to have to be responsible and operate in such a manner that our neighborhoods, our citizens, our police and fire, and your patrons are not put in danger."
Mayor Larry Morrissey says he will make a final decision in the case by tomorrow afternoon. City attorneys are asking the mayor to suspend the bar’s liquor license 21 days.