Liquor license dilemma

State commission overturns Rochester village president's denial of liquor license

The building at 320 E. Main St. in Rochester most recently housed The Alibi, a bar and restaurant operated by Ben Suerdieck, who was evicted for failure to pay rent. His father, Village President Joe Suerdieck, denied a liquor license to his son’s former landlord, who sought to reopen a business in the building.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is overruling the decision of Rochester's village president to deny a liquor license to a business owner who had recently evicted his son.

Village President Joe Suerdieck said Nov. 27 he hasn't decided yet whether to appeal the commission's ruling. He declined to speak further on the matter.

"I don't think it's any secret; it looks like he's getting even for how they treated his son," Village Trustee Chadd Carver said. "We want this just to go away. He has given a black eye to the village of Rochester. This has already cost Rochester too much. We are out six months of gaming and other tax revenue."

At issue is the future of the building at 320 E. Main St. in Rochester that once housed The Alibi, a bar and restaurant. The building's most recent tenant was Ben Suerdieck, who was evicted June 13 by a Sangamon County judge for failing to pay $9,075 in rent.

The week after Ben Suerdieck was evicted, his former landlord, who sought to reopen a business in the building, had his application for a liquor license rejected. The decision was made by Village President Joe Suerdieck, who is also the municipality's liquor commissioner and the father of Ben.

Mark Clemens, a partner in Superior 3 Treasures LLC, which owns the building, told Illinois Times he plans to open a new bar and restaurant at the location and call it the Filling Station.

"This used to be a gas station years ago. I kind of told a few of the old-timers in the community, who have been here a long time, and they thought it was a great idea," Clemens said. "We have remodeled quite a bit in here, made it look a little nicer, and it's going to be a good spot."

As to whether the village president appeals the commission's ruling, he added, "Nothing surprises me anymore about this process. Whatever he does, he does. We have the truth on our side. So, if he appeals, then we'll fight him in that angle. And if he decides that he was wrong and moves forward, then great. Either way, we're prepared."

In the wake of this controversy, the village board is forming a committee to make recommendations on revamping the village's liquor ordinances and reevaluate the authority given to the village president, Village Trustee Harry Hendrickson said.

Carver noted that the bar would have been an ideal place for folks to gather and watch Rochester High School win the recent state 4A football championship. But the village president's action prevented that from happening.

"People in the community are upset about this," he said. "People are so upset that they are going to be lining up to put $100 bills down on the bar. They want to make up for how this guy has been treated."

Just when – or if – the bar will reopen remains to be seen.

Illinois Liquor Control Commission spokeswoman Nicole Sanders told Illinois Times that the commission reversed the decision Nov. 15 and will draft an order to that effect. But that does not necessarily mean the issue has been settled.

She said the Village of Rochester has 20 days to file a petition for a rehearing which, if filed, would be reviewed and decided by the commission at its next meeting, likely in January. If the commission denies the petition, the village may still ask for the matter to be reviewed in circuit court.

Scott Reeder, a staff writer with Illinois Times, can be reached at [email protected].

Scott Reeder

Scott Reeder is a staff writer at Illinois Times.

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