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Sorority party injury focuses attention on liquor licenses

BLOOMINGTON (MCT) — A Normal liquor store that provided alcohol to a sorority party where an Illinois State University student was injured violated McLean County’s liquor code by failing to obtain a special event license for the function.

Assistant County Administrator Hannah Eisner said Wednesday that University Liquors was required to have the Class F license for the Saturday night barn dance at Pleasant View Farm near Lexington.

“Our position is that when liquor is sold in the county, they are required to have a county liquor license,” said Eisner.

The state’s attorney’s office has been looking into circumstances surrounding a party where a 21-year-old ISU senior was burned after falling into a bonfire. McLean County sheriff’s officers also are investigating the event.

University Liquors owner Rashik Raksolia said Tuesday he believes he met the requirements of an agreement with Gamma Phi Beta sorority by providing copies of his state and town of Normal liquor and catering licenses to the sorority.

The liquor store could face a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000 if it is found guilty of an ordinance violation for its first offense of selling alcohol without a county license.

The Normal store is not alone in its error.

A check of Class F licenses issued by the McLean County clerk’s office shows that no licenses have been issued for events at Pleasant View Farms, which is owned by Sam Payne. In the past three years, ISU student organizations have held 10 events at the rural Lexington location, according to ISU.

So far this year, the county has issued four Class F licenses to private businesses that have provided alcohol to a family dinner and wedding receptions at venues outside the Twin Cities. Licenses cost $118 per day.

The issuance of a county liquor license alerts sheriff’s officers of special events that may attract a large crowd because a copy of the license is forwarded to the sheriff’s department, said Eisner.

In the case of last weekend’s party, license notice would have put sheriff’s deputies on “an elevated awareness because of past problems we’ve had at that location,” said Sheriff Mike Emery, referring to a 2009 report of an alleged sexual assault at the farm. Charges were not filed in 2009 because the woman declined to cooperate with police.

The recent sorority event, attended by about 200 students, was registered with ISU as required. The school’s alcohol policy lays out specific rules for student organizations hosting events, including the use of a third-party alcohol vendor who must check birth dates of drinkers and make sure intoxicated students are not served.

ISU spokesman Jay Groves said the third-party agreement also requires copies of state and local licenses, but the responsibility for temporary licenses falls on the vendor. University groups hold events in many locations, making it difficult for event sponsors to know all the local liquor license requirements, said Groves.

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