Otto’s five month close results in loss of license

By Carl Nadig

Otto’s owner Patrick Looney has to surrender the venue’s liquor license by today, according to city attorney Dean Frieders.

“Accordingly, at this time, the City requests that you surrender your liquor license and submit the physical license itself to the City Legal Division … within five (5) days of the date of this request,” said Frieders in a letter to Otto’s owner Patrick Looney. “The surrender of this license would constitute your relinquishment of the license.”

Looney and Frieders met at Otto’s, 118 E. Lincoln Highway, Friday, according to Looney. The two discussed future repairs with the DeKalb Fire Department before Frieders informed Looney of the letter he mailed Wednesday.

“They were saying that I need to do some structural stuff, perhaps, in the building upstairs,” Looney said. “So, I’m waiting for that report. But then, out of the blue, [Frieders] tells me, ‘by the way, you have to give up your license because you’ve been closed.’ Those are the two issues. If he comes back with ‘the whole building needs a whole new roof’ or something crazy like that, then that’ll be the end of it anyway because I don’t have the money. But if he tells me I no longer have my license, I don’t know if I have the energy to reapply for a [new] license and do all that work.”

Otto’s has been closed for nearly five months after a frozen water pipe burst in January.

“A Licensee which is closed for business for a continuous period of one hundred twenty (120) days or more shall be considered as discontinuing business … and shall be subject to the return of its liquor license to the city,” according to Chapter 38.08 of DeKalb’s liquor code. “Failure to surrender or return an expired, revoked, suspended or terminated liquor license shall be punishable by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), plus not less than Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($250.00) per day for each day after the first day.”

Because of its closure, Otto’s has canceled or relocated musical performances to venues in northern Illinois, such as the Kryptonite bar in Rockford, Abbey Pub in Chicago and The House Cafe, which reopened in May without a liquor license.

“A lot of the stuff is going to go to The House,” said Otto’s general manager Tony Poulos. “And I mean, that’s great. We’ve done shows in Rockford. But, I’m not competing against The House … . I’ll book [bands] in Rockford or Chicago, but … . I’ll do whatever I can to make The House succeed.”