DeKALB – Otto's in downtown DeKalb could be closed permanently after the owner decided to surrender the music venue's liquor license.
“I don't know what's going to happen,” owner Pat Looney said Tuesday. “I would say it's 50/50 if we're even going to try to open again.”
Looney decided to turn over the liquor license before he was scheduled to meet with the city Tuesday for a hearing regarding the music venue and bar at 118 E. Lincoln Highway. The city noted a litany of health and safety concerns in the building as well as city code that stipulates a business loses its liquor license after being closed for 120 days.
“It just seemed like fighting at this point wasn't worth it,” Looney said.
Otto's has been closed since January when frigid weather may have caused a pipe in the ceiling to burst and water to flood the building, which also housed Ducky's Formal Wear. After the pipe burst the city declared the building uninhabitable.
In inspections done since January, the city found the building suffered from years of neglect and deterioration significant enough to warrant revoking the liquor license, city officials contended. The city also found three operational video gambling machines that weren't licensed, which Looney previously said was a miscommunication with the company that delivered the machines.
City Attorney Dean Frieders said city staff have met with Looney a dozen times and tried to work with him to make the building fit to operate. Frieders added the city wants to support downtown businesses, recognizing the cultural benefits of a business such as Otto's.
"We're doing everything we can to encourage him to fix the property," Frieders said.
Otto's staff have gutted the inside of the building under a demolition permit from the city, but the business would have to submit architectural plans before being granted permits to proceed with construction, officials have said.
Looney said he's spent at least $150,000 inside the building since January, but has no idea what it would cost to get the building up to the standards that would allow it to reopen.
Outside of the financial commitment, Looney said he doesn't know if he has the motivation to reopen.
“When, essentially, a city doesn't want you there, why are you going to get excited?” Looney said. “I don't have the energy or the resources to deal with that nonsense, to be honest.”