Otto’s future still undecided after canceled public hearing

By Carl Nadig

DeKalb | Students and local patrons who have attended various live music shows might be remembering Otto’s as DeKalb history.

The surrender of Otto’s, 118 E. Lincoln Highway, liquor license on Tuesday came after months of indetermination whether the bar would reopen.

After owner Patrick Looney was informed that the liquor license was determined invalid by city municipal codes, a public hearing was scheduled with DeKalb’s liquor commissioner Tuesday. The public hearing was canceled before it began.

City officials met with Looney on multiple occasions after a frozen pipe burst and flooded the building in late January. During this time, the officials identified building code violations.

The liquor commissioner published a notice citing multiple building complaints, referring the building as unsanitary, inhabitable and hazardous. The complaints include “significant electrical faults, exposed wiring, holes in floors and ceilings, incomplete fire stop, non-functional bathrooms, inadequate ventilation and similar matters.”

The city has not imposed any fines or financial penalties for these violations.

“The following week [after Otto’s flooded in January], [Looney and I] had a meeting at the site with the police chief, the fire chief, myself, our fire inspector [and] our building division employees,” said city attorney Dean Frieders.

“Since that date we’ve had a number of other times where we’ve had building inspectors, or the fire inspector, or a combination of fire/police/legal inspectors at the property … . There’s nothing in city code that would prohibit them from having a liquor license again if the building was in a safe condition.”

Looney and his legal representation agreed to skip the hearing and surrender the business’s liquor license. According to DeKalb’s liquor license code, licensees are allowed to voluntarily suspend their licenses by submitting a written request to the city’s liquor commissioner.

“Had I known about the 120 days, I would’ve had my lawyer get a suspension if it would’ve been ahead of time,” Looney said. “My lawyer was in conversation with the city and just based on the conversation we had, they weren’t going to compromise. If we beat them on the 120 days thing, they were going to find something else.”

The business will have to fix its building violations before city officials determine the building is safe for human occupancy and can apply for a new liquor license.