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Retail Liquor Dealers Ass'n v. Fleck

OPINION FILED JANUARY 18, 1951.

RETAIL LIQUOR DEALERS PROTECTIVE ASSOCIATION OF ILLINOIS ET AL., APPELLANTS,

v.

CHARLES J. FLECK ET AL., APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Second Division of the Appellate Court for the First District; — heard in that court on appeal from the Superior Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOSEPH A. GRABER, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DAILY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiffs-appellants are two associations of liquor dealers, and certain individuals, natural persons, the latter being engaged in the retail sale of liquor in Illinois. They filed complaint in the superior court of Cook County for declaratory judgment finding that the granting of a local retail liquor dealer's license to an applicant is conclusive upon all questions of the applicant's eligibility for the license and that the Illinois Liquor Control Commission cannot refuse a State license nor can that commission hold hearings with respect to the applicant's eligibility, except that it may refuse a license for failure to pay the fee or to make application in the prescribed form.

The complaint alleges that each of the individual plaintiffs holds a local liquor license issued by a local commissioner and that each made application to the State commission for a retail license, deposited the fee required therefor and complied with all other provisions of the Illinois Liquor Control Act but that the State commission refused to issue such retail licenses and notified each individual that it would "proceed to hold a hearing for the purpose of determining whether you are qualified to receive such State Retailer's Liquor license under the terms and provisions of the Illinois Liquor Control Act." The persons constituting the State commission and the Attorney General were made parties defendant.

The answer to the complaint admits the above facts but avers that the two associations are not liquor dealers; that plaintiff Lawrence Lira is ineligible to receive a State license because he was convicted by a justice of the peace of the offense of keeping a gambling house, which conviction he falsely denied in his application for a State license; that plaintiff Margaret Porten is ineligible because she was convicted before a justice of the peace of having in her possession two slot machines, and that the State commission has been informed that plaintiff Albert Kinast was the proprietor of a tavern at which, with his knowledge and acquiescence, gambling was permitted by his employee, and that unless the State commission found Kinast not guilty of suffering gambling at his tavern he is not entitled to a license.

The answer further avers that the said individual plaintiffs do not come into equity with clean hands nor have they exhausted their administrative remedies before the State commission and that the plaintiff associations, not being liquor dealers, were not proper legal representatives of liquor dealers; that they were not proper plaintiffs and that their presence constituted misjoinder of parties.

Motion to strike the answer was granted by the superior court, and judgment was entered declaring that the Illinois Liquor Control Act imposes a mandatory duty upon the defendants to issue a State retailers' license to each of the individual plaintiffs and precludes the defendants from refusing to issue a retailer's license to any person who has obtained a local license and made application in conformity with the act and paid the license fee provided for. The superior court also restrained the defendants from conducting a hearing relating to the issuance of such retailer's license. The Appellate Court reversed the decision of the lower court (341 Ill. App. 283,) and we granted leave to appeal from that decision.

It will be seen that the main question for determination is: May the State commission pass upon the qualifications of an applicant for State liquor retailer's license, (other than manufacturers, distributors or importing distributors, nonbeverage users, railroads and boats for which authority is clearly given,) or must it issue a State license when such person has obtained a local license and has made proper application therefor to the State commission and paid the required license fee? The question of the qualifications of the individual appellants is not before us for decision, and this opinion is not to be construed as passing upon their qualifications for a license. Nor are we dealing with the wisdom of the statutory provisions hereinafter referred to. We are only called upon by this appeal to construe them.

The Illinois Liquor Control Act of 1934 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1949, chap. 43, pars. 94-195,) is comprehensive and evidently intended to cover all questions arising in connection with the control of alcoholic liquors. Counsel for the respective parties have ably pointed out and discussed the pertinent provisions of the statute, but they reach opposite conclusions through their respective interpretations.

Section 12 of article III, (par. 108,) of the act is authority for the State Liquor Control Commission to issue a retailer's license, but the following section prohibits it from issuing the license (except to parties not here involved) unless the applicant therefor shall have obtained a local license for the same premises. The same section then says: "When such person has obtained a local license and has made application to the State commission in conformity with this Act and paid the license fee provided, it shall be the duty of the State commission to issue a retailer's license to him."

Section 3 of article IV empowers the local commissioner to grant, and revoke for cause, all local licenses issued to persons for premises within his jurisdiction, and the next paragraph gives him the right to examine or cause to be examined any applicant for a local license or for a renewal thereof. Section I of article VI covers the renewing of a license.

Section 2 of article VI provides: "No license of any kind issued by the State Commission or any local commission shall be issued to: * * * (2) A person who is not of good character and reputation in the community in which he resides; * * * (4) A person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of the State of Illinois; * * * (6) A person who has been convicted of pandering or other crime or misdemeanor opposed to decency and morality; * * *."

Section I of article VII requires the applicant for a license from the State commission to submit to it an application in writing under oath including: "(8) A statement that applicant has never been convicted of a felony and is not disqualified to receive a license by reason of any matter or thing contained in this Act; * * * (10) In the case of a retailer, that he has received a local license to sell alcoholic liquor at retail; * * *."

Section 4 of article VII states: "At any time during the pendency of an application the State commission shall have the right to compel the applicant to submit to any examination and to produce any books and records which, in the judgment of the State commission, are material to the determination of whether the applicant is qualified to receive a license under the provisions of this Act, * * *. The State commission shall also have the right to require the applicant to answer any charges made in any objection to the issuance of the license * * *. The failure of any applicant to appear at the time and place fixed by the State commission for his examination or to produce books and records requested, unless for good cause shown, shall be deemed to be an admission that the applicant is not qualified to receive a license."

Section 5 of article VII gives authority to the local commission to revoke any license issued by it, while the section immediately following provides that revocation of a local license shall automatically result in the revocation of a State license. Section 7 of article VII authorizes any five residents of a city, village or county to file a complaint with the local commissioner charging any retailer licensee ...


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