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Illinois liquor licenses revoked, suspended after bootlegging from Indiana

Bottles of alcohol are seen lining the shelves of a liquor store in this file photo. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission revoked one south suburban lounge's liquor license and suspended a liquor store's license for bootlegging from Indiana.

Illinois revoked the liquor license of a south suburban nightclub and suspended a liquor store's license for bootlegging booze from Indiana.

Historically, bootlegging involved Tommy gun-wielding gangsters like Al Capone delivering bathtub gin and other ill-gotten spirits to underground speakeasies. But authorities say it continues on in the Illiana area where Illinois liquor stores and bars illegally port over alcohol from Indiana so they can dodge the higher state alcohol taxes in the Land of Lincoln.

Last week, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission revoked the license of Club Suavee, a nightclub at 79 W. Joe Orr Rd in Chicago Heights, after a state inspector found it imported 45 liters of spirits from Indiana without paying Illinois taxes.

The dressy dance club, which claims to be "well-known for stepping, house music, karaoke, comedy shows, line dancing and the best Long Islands in the south suburbs," sits about 8 miles west of the state line.

"Licensee violated the Illinois Liquor Control act by importing alcoholic liquor into Illinois from outside state," the commission ruled while revoking the license.

The commission also voted last week to suspend the license of Richton Liquors at 22228 Governors Highway in Richton Park for 10 days for importing liquor from Indiana. The south suburban liquor store also got slapped with a $10,000 fine that must be paid in full by June 23.

Last year, federal law enforcement officials seized $1 million from Columbia Liquors in Hammond, which was alleged to have bought booze from three Indiana distributors and sold it under the table for cash to liquor stores across the south suburbs in Illinois, where the excise taxes are substantially higher.

Excise tax rates for liquor are significantly lower on the Indiana side of the state border: $0.115 for beer in Indiana compared to $0.611 in Chicago, $0.47 for wine in Indiana compared to $2.52 in Chicago, and $2.68 for liquor in Indiana compared to $13.73 in Chicago when state, city and Cook County taxes are all factored in.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.