Eighteen years ago, Stanley Markowski bought a local doughnut shop and added a tavern, to the amusement of customers who dubbed the place Drunken Donut.
"Everybody knows the Drunken Donut name – never the Joliet Bakery," Markowski said with a chuckle, in his heavy Polish accent. "Even the mail comes Drunken Donut."
Joliet Bakery, Deli & Liquors is the actual name of the business at 821 Plainfield Road.
But a Facebook page refers to The Drunken Donut – a bow to popular demand – and provides a calendar of upcoming events.
The name Joliet Bakery, Deli & Liquors hardly suggests there is a tavern inside that frequently has live bands – some coming from out of state and one even from Australia – and an open mic night called "Electric Wednesdays."
Markowski would like to add something else – a beer garden.
For eight years, he has wanted a beer garden but has been unable to get the liquor license.
He lost his latest bid on Sept. 2 when the Joliet City Council voted, 8-0, to reject the license.
"I thought the council would support me because it was only three ladies complaining," he said, referring to objections to the beer garden license at a liquor commission hearing.
Markowski said he thought he would at least get a vote from council member Michael Turk, who occasionally stops in for a coffee and doughnut.
But Turk said Markowski's push for a beer garden has regularly met with resistance from neighbors in nearby apartments. Although Joliet Bakery, Deli & Liquors is on one of the city's major commercial streets, it's bordered by condominiums and apartments on the back side.
"I think the concept is good," Turk said. "Beer gardens are nice, but right in the middle of a residential area it's difficult."
Neighbors weren't the only ones objecting.
The city's building inspector opposed the license, pointing to building violations. A liquor commission report alleges "major building violations," including no extinguishers, exit signs or emergency lighting.
And, the report points out, Markowski keeps a pigeon coop on the property in violation of city ordinances.
Markowski said he doesn't count the number of birds, but he has at least 30.
Sometimes they are in the coop and other times not. Markowski insists they stay on his property unless a hawk shows up, although neighbors complained otherwise.
Markowski lives above the business. The birds help him relax, he said.
Back in his native land of Poland, Markowski said, many people keep birds and release them at community festivals as symbols of peace.
"I came from Europe in 1980," he said. "I had $500 in my pocket. I had no family. I had no friends. Nobody. In three years, I bought a bakery. A little bit later, I bought the butcher shop next door."
That was in Chicago on Pulaski Road and 63rd Street.
In 2001, he bought the business in Joliet.
Markowski is an accomplished baker.
He has a video from a Canadian national event at which he supplied a 510-pound birthday cake, for which Markowski was paid $10,000.
He has other talents, which Markowski sometimes demonstrates on holidays when he cooks meals for his regular customers, Dick Wheeler said.
"Sometimes in the morning he comes out with these big dinners," Wheeler said.
Wheeler and a group of friends gather at Joliet Bakery, Deli & Liquors every morning for coffee, doughnuts and three to four hours of conversation.
"The people who go there every day love it," Wheeler said. "We're very fond of Stanley."
Wheeler called Markowski "a good man" and described Joliet Bakery, Deli & Liquors as "very unique."
"It's a colorful little business, reminiscent of old Joliet," he said.
Markowski does much of the construction work at Joliet Bakery, Deli & Liquors himself.
He built a stone wall with an iron fence along along the edge of the potential beer garden strong enough to prevent vehicles from Plainfield Road from crashing in. He built decks outside and did woodwork inside the building.
Markowski is building a new coop for the birds on top of the apartment where he lives above the business. He's hoping the separation will be enough to convince the city to grant a beer garden license.
Mayor Bob O'Dekirk, who also is the city's liquor commissioner, said he did not know if the new coop for pigeons would make a difference because of the regular opposition to a beer garden from nearby residents.
"I was more concerned about the neighbors than the pigeons," he said.
Markowski does not think about getting rid of the birds. He considers the word "pigeons" an insult.
"This is my work. This is my home," he said. "I love the birds."