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Indian Valley Golf Club v. Liquor Control Com.

MAY 16, 1973.

INDIAN VALLEY GOLF CLUB, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

THE LIQUOR CONTROL COMMISSION ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD F. HEALY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DIERINGER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Following a hearing held in the Circuit Court of Cook County pursuant to the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 110, §§ 264-279), the defendants, specifically the Village of Long Grove and its Liquor Commissioner, were ordered to issue a liquor license to the plaintiff. The Village of Long Grove and its Liquor Commissioner herein appeal from that judgment.

The issues presented for review are: (1) whether the decision of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission is supported by the manifest weight of the evidence; and (2) whether there is a license which could be issued to the plaintiff, an Illinois for-profit corporation.

The plaintiff, Indian Valley Golf Club, Inc., an Illinois corporation, has operated a golf club in the Village of Long Grove in Lake County since 1962. As part of its operation since opening, the plaintiff has been licensed by the Village of Long Grove to sell alcoholic beverages and has done so continually. The local liquor license held by the plaintiff was renewed semi-annually without objection or difficulty until October 21, 1969, when the plaintiff, having applied for a renewal of its license using the forms and application provided by the Village, was notified by the Village hearings would be held with regard to the ownership of stock in the plaintiff corporation. Such hearings, presided over by the Village President acting as the local Liquor Commissioner, were held but failed to produce any evidence which reflected adversely on the character of the plaintiff corporation or any of its shareholders. The only evidence presented at the hearings was to the effect that the plaintiff was an Illinois for-profit corporation operating a daily fee golf course admitting anyone. Moreover, no mention was made at these hearings of a Village ordinance, purportedly adopted on October 14, 1969, which established certain classes of liquor licenses. On July 1, 1970, the Liquor Commissioner for the Village of Long Grove refused to renew the plaintiff's liquor license on the ground that the plaintiff was not entitled to a license under the revised Liquor Control Ordinance adopted by the Village on October 14, 1969.

The plaintiff thereafter appealed the refusal of the Village of Long Grove to renew its liquor license to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. At the hearings held before the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, it was the Village's position that the plaintiff could qualify for a liquor license only if organized as a not-for-profit corporation as there were no licenses established by the revised Liquor Control Ordinance of October 14, 1969, for a "club" organized for profit such as the plaintiff. For this reason, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission denied the plaintiff's appeal on April 1, 1971.

Pursuant to the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 110, §§ 264-279), the plaintiff sought review of the decision of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission in the Circuit Court of Cook County. After hearing arguments by both the plaintiff and the Village, the trial court, in an order signed on April 27, 1972, reversed the decision of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission as contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, and finding the plaintiff fully qualified for a liquor license under the applicable state and local liquor control laws. Furthermore, the trial court not only found the action of the local Liquor Commissioner in denying the plaintiff's application for renewal of its license to be discriminatory, unreasonable and arbitrary, but also found the Village's revised Liquor Control Ordinance of October 14, 1969, violative of due process of law. In view of these findings, the trial court, therefore, ordered the Village of Long Grove to issue a liquor license to the plaintiff.

The first issue presented for review is whether the decision of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission is supported by the manifest weight of the evidence.

The defendants contend that since the plaintiff, Indian Valley Golf Club, Inc., admitted in hearings before the local Liquor Commissioner it is an Illinois for-profit corporation operating a daily fee golf course admitting anyone, the local Liquor Commissioner properly construed that pertinent section of the Village's revised Liquor Control Ordinance of October 14, 1969, in declining to renew the plaintiff's license as applied for on October 21, 1969. The pertinent section of the Village's revised Liquor Control Ordinance upon which the local Liquor Commissioner based his decision not to renew the plaintiff's license is that section wherein the definition of a "club" appears. In that section, a "club" for the purpose of licensing is defined as:

"A corporation organized under the laws of this State not for pecuniary profit solely for the promotion of some common object other than the sale or consumption of alcoholic liquors and owning, hiring or leasing a building or space in a building of such extent and character as may be suitable and adequate for the reasonable use and accommodation of its members, guests and persons using such facilities."

Since the plaintiff allegedly does not meet local license requirements as a "club" under the aforementioned definition, the defendants contend there is no license to issue to the plaintiff and, therefore, the decision of the local Liquor Commissioner is more than supported by the manifest weight of the evidence. Since this same evidence was presented at the hearings held by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission, the defendants contend the Commission's decision upholding the local Commissioner is supported by the manifest weight of the evidence, and the trial court erred in reversing the findings of the Commission. In support of their contention, the defendants rely on the decision in Vavrys v. Illinois Liquor Control Com. (1968), 92 Ill. App.2d 451, where the court stated:

"Unless the findings (of the Commission) are against the manifest weight of the evidence or fail to be supported by substantial evidence in the record they will be upheld on review."

• 1 Initially, we find it necessary to address ourselves to the defendants' reliance on the plaintiff's use of the word "club" in its title as a reason for refusing to issue a liquor license to the plaintiff. The use of the word "club" by many businesses that are organized for profit does not deceive anyone. (Walton Playboy Club, Inc. v. City of Chicago (1962), 37 Ill. App.2d 425.) The facts in the instant case are uncontroverted that the plaintiff's primary operation is a general fee golf course, open to the general public, and not a private club organized with the specific purpose of excluding certain portions of the general public. Counsel for the defendants conceded during oral argument the real reason the Village of Long Grove purportedly adopted that section of the revised Liquor Control Ordinance wherein a "club" is defined was to impose an exclusionary policy on the existing license holder which had the word "club" in its title, namely, the plaintiff, thereby effectively precluding the incursion of any outside individuals or groups into this staid, homogeneous community. Such reasoning is contrary to the public policy of this state, wherein the civil rights of all individuals and groups are preserved and respected and cannot be abridged.

Turning our attention to the defendants' contention that the decision of the trial court is contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, we find such contention relies in its totality on a most basic condition precedent, namely, the actual existence of the revised Liquor Control Ordinance which the Village of Long Grove claims to have adopted on October 14, 1969, because it was the application of this revised ordinance which led to the village's refusal to renew the plaintiff's liquor license. Section 26 of the revised ordinance states:

"This ordinance shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage, approval and ...


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