Liquor Licenses and Section 1983

The city of Country Club Hills, Illinois issued a bar a liquor license.  Afterwards, they attempted to change the terms of the liquor license.  The bar sought a preliminary injunction, which the District Court granted.  A unanimous three-judge panel affirmed.  Pro's Sports Bar & Grill v. City of Country Club Hills, No. 09-2082 (7th Cir. Dec. 16, 2009) (here)

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from depriving a person of  “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” This prohibition applies with equal force to municipalities. See Home Tel. & Tel. Co. v. City ofLos Angeles, 227 U.S. 278 (1913). We take a two-step approach to procedural due process claims: first, we ask whether the plaintiff has been deprived of a protected liberty or property interest; if so, we ask whether thedeprivation occurred without due process. Doe v. Heck, 327 F.3d 492, 526 (7th Cir. 2003).
As with all Section 1983/due process cases, the issue of whether a property interest exists is one of state law.  Yep, the panel had to go slummin' it:
Once granted, an Illinois liquor license is a form of property within the meaning of the due process clause. See Club Misty, Inc. v. Laski, 208 F.3d 615, 618 (7th Cir.2000) (citing Reed v. Village of Shorewood, 704 F.2d 943, 948-49 (7th Cir. 1983)). This interest extends to the license’s annual renewal. Id. Like revocation during the term of a license, nonrenewal requires cause and a hearing. Id.;see also 235 ILCS 5/7-1 to 7-14 (detailing the revocation process).
Even worse, the panel had to look at municipal law.  City ordinances are often a mess.  Majors and city council members are often morons.  The same kids who ran for class president grow up wanting to be mayor. The panel discusses some of the silliness that the council attempted to pull:
First, the City argues that the signed ordinance does not reflect the city council’s action on November 26, 2007 because of a scrivener’s error. Rather than adopt the proposed ordinance, the City maintains, the council adopted an amended ordinance with limited hours. In the alternative, the City suggests that we interpret the ordinance based on the intent of the council, which it argues was to impose an hours restriction on Pro’s.
Nice try, guys.  You fail.  For being morons, you'll be required to pay the bar's legal fees under Section 1988.  Of course, the taxpayers will be forced to pay.  They elected you idiots, so they deserve to foot the bill.

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