By Mary Owen TribLocal reporter Dec. 27, 2010 at 12:57 p.m.
An all-ages club may open at 22. W. Cass, the site of the now-shuttered Venue. (Mary Owen/Tribune)
The owner of an all-ages nightclub which recently closed in Orland Park is looking to come to downtown Joliet.
A Class B liquor license was approved last week by the Joliet City Council, paving the way for MoJoes to open at 22 W. Cass Street, formerly The Venue. The council is expected to decide in January whether to issue an entertainment license.
“What we’re proposing is what they have in downtown Chicago, but on the south side,” said Mark Bernal, 30, who also operated MoJoes in Tinley Park and then Orland Park until it closed last year.
The club would have 150 to 200 shows annually, mostly rock and country, and about 100 of those would be all-ages. Bernal said that the all-ages shows would run from about 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. at which point the minors would be required to leave and the bar would return to 21-and-over.
Council members initially expressed concerns that serving alcohol at a venue with minors would create problems, but Bernal told them that they will have many safeguards in place, such as wristbands and limiting alcohol consumption to an upstairs level.
“This building is perfectly set up to separate the alcohol from the underage,” Bernal told the council.
Michael Hansen, attorney for the building owner, said serving alcohol at a mixed-aged crowd is done at places in Joliet such as the Silver Cross Field, Chicago Speedway and Rialto Square Theatre.
“There are examples of where this can be done successfully,” Hansen said.
The building is owned by John Bays, who said he’s been approached by more than 70 business plans for the site and believed that Bernal and his team had the most viable. MoJoes would pay about $10,000 a year in rent at the building.
Councilman Joe Shetina said the location was perfect for music and crowds as there are no residents nearby and is in an area where the city is looking to beef up business.
“This is a perfect example of what we want to do,” Shetina said.
Councilman Tom Giarrante said he was concerned about parking. Bays said there are about 600 spots that he owns or leases from the city, but the venue would have valet parking.
Since the city’s liquor license does not address nightclubs who admit minors, city officials instructed City Attorney Jeff Plyman to either draft changes to the city code. Plyman suggested that perhaps the issue could be addressed through the issuance of MoJoes entertainment permit which has to be approved by the city.