Officials: For 20 Months, Spybar Had No State Liquor License; Investigators Probing Sources Of Liquor And Beer

According to state officials, this is Spybar’s most recent Illinois liquor license. It expired on June 30, 2016.

CWBChicago has learned new information about the city’s closure of Spybar, the late-night dance club staple at 646 North Franklin in River North. We were first to report on Friday that city officials said the bar had been forced to close on February 23 because it did not have a state liquor license.

Today, after a six-day search by state workers, we received a copy of what officials say is the most recent state liquor license for the bar. It expired on June 30, 2016. That would mean the bar operated for about 20 months without a state license…and nobody in a position of authority noticed.

A well-placed city source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an investigation is underway to determine how Spybar secured liquor during the 20 months that it allegedly operated without state credentials. State law requires bars to purchase alcohol through licensed distributors. And the distributors must ensure that their customers are licensed, too.

CWBChicago has received summertime photographs from a River North reader that show dozens of cases of beer being unloaded from a minivan onto handcarts that were taken into the building where Spybar operated. It is not possible to know, however, where the product wound up or who the people hauling the beer are. Asked last week about the reported investigation, a Spybar spokesman did not comment.

The bar’s city liquor license and public place of amusement license, both of which are required to lawfully operate, expired on February 15, according to online records and a city official. The establishment also owes the city “excessive debt” according to an official who cited “pending cases” in refusing to specify how much the city is owed or for what reasons.

Confronted with the embarrassing situation of having a high-profile club operating for nearly two years without proper licensing—not to mention a Northwest Side restaurant that ran a full bar for three years without a state permit—Illinois and city officials are working on a solution, according to a source.

“Something new is in the works,” the source said. The Illinois Liquor Control Commission plans to begin providing the city with a monthly list of licenses that are expiring in Chicago. “This will further our endeavor to ensure consistency and compliance between the state and local liquor license,” the official said.

As for Spybar, they continue to announce that the club will re-open on the day after tomorrow.
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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is