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Madonia v. Houston





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Raymond L. Terrell, Judge, presiding.


On May 4, 1982, defendant, J. Michael Houston, as local liquor control commissioner of the city of Springfield, filed with the local liquor control commission of that city (LLCC) a complaint alleging that plaintiff, Hazel Madonia, d/b/a Whirl-A-Way Tavern, had committed certain violations of the city of Springfield liquor control ordinance. On June 18, 1982, following a hearing on the complaint before the LLCC, the commissioner adopted the LLCC findings of fact and conclusions of law and revoked plaintiff's liquor license effective July 12, 1982. Plaintiff appealed to the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC), which affirmed the commissioner's decision. Plaintiff then brought an action for administrative review in the circuit court of Sangamon County. On December 9, 1983, that court affirmed. Plaintiff has appealed to this court. We also affirm.

By the terms of section 4-4(1) of the Liquor Control Act of 1934 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 43, par. 112(1)), the local liquor control commissioner has the power to revoke for cause all local liquor licenses issued for premises located within his jurisdiction. Section 7-5 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 43, par. 149) authorizes the local commissioner to revoke licenses for violations of municipal ordinances.

The complaint charged that plaintiff violated section 4.44 of the Code of the City of Springfield which states "no riotous, disorderly, indecent, or offensive conduct of any kind shall be allowed in or about [the licensed] premises." The complaint alleged that plaintiff, the licensee, had violated section 4.44 by "permitting indecent and offensive conduct on a licensed premises, to-wit: prostitution * * * with the knowledge and complicity of the licensee through her employees and agents, to-wit: the manager, Samuel Ray LaForce." The complaint alleged the incidents of prostitution occurred on March 30, 1982, and April 21, 1982. In addition, the complaint alleged the licensee violated section 4.47 by selling or furnishing alcoholic liquor at retail to three female patrons without requiring payments at the time of sale on March 30, 1982. The LLCC found the allegations concerning prostitution to have been proved.

On appeal to this court, plaintiff contends that (1) the administrative decision was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) the failure of the LLCC to grant her request for a bill of particulars was a denial of her constitutional right to a fair hearing; and (3) the consideration of hearsay evidence by the LLCC requires reversal.

The evidence of plaintiff's ordinance violations came entirely from the testimony of Joseph Davis, a detective for the city of Springfield.

Davis testified that he entered plaintiff's tavern in Springfield at about 4 p.m. on March 30, 1982, and gave 50¢ to a woman who was collecting donations from patrons for the jukebox. He stated that she then offered to perform sexual favors for him and said the price would be $45, whereupon he refused. Davis testified that he then asked the bartender, Samuel Ray LaForce, if the woman was "clean," and the bartender answered that he did not know what Davis was talking about and wanted to have nothing to do with whatever Davis had in mind. Davis also testified that he made gestures to LaForce "that [he] had — she had made an offer for some fun and had offered — had stated a price." The witness maintained that LaForce did nothing to stop the woman from making similar offers to others before he, Davis, left shortly thereafter.

Davis told of later returning to the tavern and sitting down at the bar, after which four women came over, began talking to him and one of them, Mary Payne, made a proposal to perform a sexual act for $80. The most significant part of Davis' testimony was his statement that, while he was still at the tavern, another woman named Martie offered, in a loud voice, to perform a sexual act for a price and that during the entire conversation with this woman LaForce was on the other side of the bar only three to five feet away. Davis contended that after Martie made the comment, LaForce made a gesture with his head to her and to Davis, smiled and walked away.

Davis further testified that when no one offered to buy drinks, one of the women asked LaForce if he would give them drinks on credit and "they would pay him tomorrow." LaForce served two women drinks and wrote something down on a pad next to the cash register. Davis testified that no money was exchanged when the liquor was delivered to the women. Finally, Davis testified that he returned to the tavern on April 21, 1982, and Mary Payne again offered to perform a sexual act with him for $50.

Ray LaForce, called on behalf of plaintiff, testified that he did not recall seeing Davis or speaking with him on March 30, 1982. He stated that he did not allow prostitution or solicitation for prostitution to take place on the premises, and he was not aware that there may have been solicitation for prostitution going on on March 30, 1982. He said that if he had known that was happening he would have stopped it. He also testified that he has barred prostitutes or people he knew to be prostitutes from being in the tavern.

On administrative review, "[t]he findings and conclusions of the administrative agency on questions of fact shall be held to be prima facie true and correct." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 110, par. 3-110.) They should be set aside only if contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. (Whitley v. Board of Review (1983), 116 Ill. App.3d 476, 451 N.E.2d 942.) That occurs only when a conclusion opposite that of the agency is clearly evident. (Spiros Lounge, Inc. v. Illinois Liquor Control Com. (1981), 98 Ill. App.3d 280, 423 N.E.2d 1366.) In contending that the commission's decision here was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, plaintiff relies on Daley v. License Appeal Com. (1964), 54 Ill. App.2d 265, 204 N.E.2d 36, and Evans v. License Appeal Com. (1968), 95 Ill. App.2d 121, 237 N.E.2d 817, where administrative decisions to revoke similar licenses of taverns were overturned on administrative review. Both cases involved charges that solicitation of prostitution had been permitted in the respective taverns.

In Daley, a plainclothes police officer entered the licensee's premises, was served a drink by the bartender, and was approached by a female patron. The bartender was at all times within three or four feet of the officer. The woman propositioned the officer for $10. While the woman was leaving the tavern, the officer called the bartender over and said, "'[l]isten, buddy, this girl wants to give me a lay. Is she clean?'" The bartender answered, "`Yes, she is okay. Stop back in.'" (Daley v. License Appeal Com. (1964), 54 Ill. App.2d 265, 267, 204 N.E.2d 36, 38.) The officer testified that he believed the bartender heard part of the conversation but was not sure what part of the conversation he had heard. The court concluded that the administrative agency did not have sufficient proof to find that the bartender heard any part of the conversation or understood that the woman was soliciting the officer until the solicitation had taken place and the woman and the officer were leaving.

In Evans, the evidence showed that two police officers in plainclothes entered the licensed tavern and were approached by a woman who offered to perform a sexual act at a particular place for a particular price. The officers purported to agree, and one of the officers stated to the bartender that he and his friend were going with the woman to "get laid" and wanted to take some whiskey with them. As the bartender sold the officer the whiskey, the officers told the bartender that the woman was charging them $10 apiece. The officer then asked the bartender to change a $20 bill so he could pay the woman, and the bartender exchanged the $20 bill for two $10 bills. The bartender denied hearing most of the conversation. The court stated that the precedent of Daley required it to conclude that the proof was insufficient, because it did not show that the bartender knew that solicitation had taken place until the act was complete and, thus, did not permit the act of prostitution to take place. Evans v. License Appeal Com. (1968), 95 Ill. App.2d 121, 124, 237 N.E.2d 817, 819.

Plaintiff also relies on Fitzgerald v. Illinois Liquor Control Com. (1980), 82 Ill. App.3d 1018, 403 N.E.2d 696. In that case, the commission had revoked a tavern's liquor license because of circumstances wherein a sale of narcotics had taken place in the tavern. The decision was also overturned on administrative review. The sale apparently took place within two or three feet of the bartender. The police officer making the purchase could not say that the ...

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