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735 Essington Road, Suite 102, Joliet, Illinois 60435

Joliet council considering all-ages club for downtown

Herald News

By Bob Okon


Last Modified: Dec 22, 2010 02:40AM

JOLIET — The plan for an all-ages club is the latest attempt to bring something hot to downtown Joliet.

The all-age club still has to get approval from the city council before it can become reality.

If it passes, it would go into the same spot at 22 W. Cass St. that once housed the Sapphire Club, an attempt to bring the kind of ultra upscale music and martini venue found in downtown Chicago to downtown Joliet. Sapphire Club didn’t make it.

Neither did the successor club, The Venue.

Mark Bernal and building owner John Bays have high hopes for an all-age club at the building that once was home to the Kline’s Department Store.

Practically unheard of in Joliet, all-ages clubs are popular in other urban areas and university towns.

Councilman John Gerl noted his son, a freshman at the University of Iowa, speaks highly of one he goes to. With a bit of straight-faced irony, Gerl said his son “assures me that it works perfectly.”

Mayor Arthur Schultz and council members may have to be assured that the concept will work perfectly in Joliet before giving approval.

The plan is to have a vote at one of the two council meetings in January.

Successful prototypes

First, the city will have to draw up an ordinance permitting such activity. And, if it’s permitted downtown, the city should be prepared to see requests to employ the same concept elsewhere, City Attorney Jeff Plyman said.

“Whatever we come up with has to apply citywide,” Plyman said. “There’s going to be interest in this.”

Minors enjoying entertainment at the same place where adults are drinking is not so odd a concept as it appears at first, said Michael Hansen, an attorney working on the project.

The same thing happens at Silver Cross Field for baseball games, Chicagoland Speedway for races, and even at the Rialto Square Theatre for shows, Hansen noted.

“There are prototypes of where this can be successful,” he said.

Bernal said he has experience with such clubs in Orland Park and Tinley Park, where he ran a place called MoJoes.

“All ages” means exactly that, Bernal told the council.

“All ages means anyone can go,” he said. “You can bring your 10-year-old child to see the Mickey Mouse Club.”

More likely, he said, the under-21 crowd will be in their teens.

Hours for all-age music shows likely would be 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. After that, he said, the club would be cleared.

The council granted Bernal a liquor license Monday. That means he can open a bar.

But the all-ages club will have to wait.

Bernal said he would expect to hold between 150 and 200 shows a year with live music.

About half would be all-ages events. When minors aren’t in the club, it will operate as an 21-and-over venue.

“The all-age is not going to be our full business,” he said, “but it is our backbone.”

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