One of the hottest items on the agenda was a request from the
Lincoln liquor commission to add a new classification of liquor
license to the list available in the city.
Commission members Les Plotner and Dan Wheat were on hand along with
business owner Cliff McCumber to state their case for the new
Cliff McCumber states his case in favor of the license
McCumber is the owner of the Fifth Street Food Mart in Lincoln. In
his business he currently has a package liquor license and sells
beer and wine for consumption off premises. In addition, the store
offers convenience items and gasoline.
McCumber brought the request for a pour license to the liquor
commission in April, explaining that he needed that license so he
could apply to the state for video gaming. By state law gaming is
allowed in taverns and restaurants that serve liquor and also at
truck stops, but not convenience stores. The pour license allows
convenience stores set up a separate room within their establishment
where they can serve beer or wine in a glass for on-site
consumption. When on-site consumption is established, the
convenience store then qualifies to apply for a state video gaming
When talking to the commission, McCumber said he wasn’t really
interested in selling glasses of beer and wine, and didn’t expect
that he would sell all that much. But he wanted the license so he
could get the games. He said his business needed the gaming in order
to compete with two larger companies in town, Thornton’s and Beck’s
on the city’s west side.
Tuesday evening he presented much the same case to the city council,
telling them he was losing money on the sale of gasoline and needed
the added revenue from gaming in order to keep his business going.
McCumber explained that right now regular gasoline is selling in
Lincoln for $3.45 per gallon. In reality that same gallon is costing
He also told the council that he has recently had to lay off two
employees because of the closure of Salt Creek Bridge. He said the
traffic diverted to the city’s west side for access to Interstate 55
has cost him 30 percent of his business.
When at the commission, McCumber was asked about other towns who
have implemented a pour license. He said other towns were doing it,
but he didn’t have accurate information.
Monday night before the council, he said he had continued
researching it and had firsthand information from three locations.
Love’s Park has created 90 pour license. McCumber said he talked to
the mayor of Love’s Park and he had nothing but good to say about
it. That mayor said the license category had helped the small
businesses and the community; had raised revenues for the city; and
had not led to more work for the local law enforcement.
McCumber said the city of Marion had also established a type of pour
license and the mayor there was also pleased with the result. In
addition, the village of Benld has a wine tasting license that
allowed them to have gaming as well.
During discussion, Jonie Tibbs asked why it had to be liquor. She
said she knew in another town where the gaming is in a convenience
store and the store gives patrons free soda’s while they play.
McCumber said he could and would do the same thing. He said for
himself, he doesn’t really want to serve the liquor, but he has to
have it available in order to get the gaming license.
When he was speaking earlier in the evening he mentioned
specifically, Thornton’s, Beck’s and Qik-n-EZ, as being shops that
provided gaming. Marty Neitzel asked about this, wondering if the
local Qik-n-EZ had gaming. McCumber said they did not in Lincoln,
but in other towns they do.
Leslie Cooper speaks out in opposition to the license
Also on hand to speak to the council was Leslie Cooper. Cooper came
forward and told the city that she felt passionately that this was
not going to be good for the city. She said she had done research
via the internet and had learned that there is a great deal of money
to be made. She noted the Road Ranger Truck Stop chain, where one
store is netting $90,000 a month from gaming.
But, she said, she still couldn’t see this as being good for the
city of Lincoln. She spoke about the challenges that already exist
for shoppers at some convenience stores. She said parking is an
issue with folks stopping in for a fountain drink or gas as it is.
Add to that, people parking for long periods of time for gaming and
it would be even worse.
She also noted that there are other towns in Illinois who are not
allowing this. She said the city of Dixon had denied a request for a
pour license classification. She noted the city of Champaign is also
denying the request.
Cooper did offer an alternative suggestion. She said instead of
asking the cities to change their laws, convenience store owners
should band together and go to the state and ask for a change in the
Bob Arneaud of Qik-n-EZ weighs in
Bob Arneaud was next to speak. Arneaud is the Chief Financial
Officer for Chronister Oil, the parent company of Qik-n-EZ. He
confirmed that the chain store does have gaming in five of its
locations with a sixth location pending. Those establishments have
the gaming because they qualify as truck stops. He said should the
city pass a pour license the Lincoln store will definitely be
applying for one.
He told the council that the benefits to offering gaming were
significant for smaller chains like Qik-n-EZ and singly owned
businesses such as Fifth Street Food Mart.
Arneaud said he understood the concerns of serving liquor, but that
in the case of his stores, and he was certain McCumbers as well, the
key is in having well trained, sensitive employees who know when not
to serve a patron.
Michelle Bauer asked Arneaud how he would accommodate the separate
room requirement in the pour license, would the store have to do new
construction. Arneaud said they would not. The store currently has
an extra room that is being used only for storage. The company will
have to do some interior remodeling but that is all.
Tibbs wondered if there were any rules pertaining to proximity of
schools for the serving of liquor with gaming, and was told there
[to top of second column]
Liquor commissioners address the topic
The last people to address the council were Plotner and Wheat of
the Liquor Commission.
Plotner opened by saying the intent of the commission is not to
create watering holes for drunks. He said the liquor portion of
this situation is not the issue. The issue is that these
businesses need gaming to make money.
He added that when McCumber first came to the commission, he
personally was prepared to say, “No.” However, once McCumber
stated his case, Plotner better understood the reason for the
request, and supported it.
It was also explained that in order to get a pour license, a
business must also have a package liquor license. Wheat broke
that down in dollars saying the business would have the package
liquor license at a cost of $1,250 per year. They would then
have to purchase the pour license at a cost of $1,125 per year.
Therefore, in order to get the desired licenses the business
owner would par the city a total of $2,375 annually.
been mentioned earlier that the commission was asking to create only
five licenses. It had also been mentioned that there are 15
businesses that would be eligible. Wheat had concluded the
commission felt that having the gaming in one-third of the eligible
establishments was enough.
During discussion, Tom O’Donohue asked why, if the license was being
established to help local business, the number was being limited to
five. Plotner said that was a starting point, and if pressed with
demand, the commission could ask the city to create additional
The commissioners were also asked if there was to be a drink limit
on the license. Plotner said there was not, but the same “shut-off”
rules would apply to this as to taverns.
The topic moves to council discussion with Conzo and Snyder
weighing as well
City treasurer Chuck Conzo commented that the city did approve
gaming in 2012 with a vote of 9 to 1 in favor. He said that if they
city was going to allow gaming they should also offer it on a level
playing field, which is what the pour license would do.
He noted that in the 2013 fiscal year, the estimated revenues to the
city from gaming had been $60,000. However, the actual number came
in in excess of $75,000. He said the revenue would increase with
more gaming establishments, and there was no doubt the city needed
O’Donohue noted though that there is a point of saturation where
that more machines won’t add up to more money for the city.
Conzo said that was true, but he doesn’t feel the city has reached
that point yet.
Bauer said she could see the possibility that people who are not
playing now, might play in a convenience store. She said there could
be people who would enjoy gaming, but hesitate to go into a tavern
in order to play. She believes that people who want to drink will
still go to the taverns and not convenience stores.
Mayor Keith Snyder also commented on the issue. Snyder serves on the
liquor commission and does not support the creation of a new
license. He also does not support gaming in general. He told the
council that for the city to have earned $75,000 from gaming, its
citizens lost a total of $1.5 million in the machines last year.
Conzo countered that the $75,000 came from buying the games, not
losing them. But, Wheat added to that saying that players do lose 95
percent of the time.
The city’s newest alderman, Scott Copper also spoke up against the
gaming. He said that if he had been on the council a year and a half
ago, he would have voted against it because he has seen first-hand
the damage gambling addictions can do.
Neitzel also commented saying that this type of gambling serves the
lower end of the social class, and as a result the community and the
tax payers end up supporting their families thru social services.
O’Donohue brought up that at the original vote, Neitzel voted,
‘yes,’ for gaming. Would she now change her vote? Neitzel said that
she believed she would, that she doesn’t support it now.
McCumber spoke up one more time saying that gaming was just like
other vices that are allowed in the city, cigarettes and alcohol for
example. He told the council they gained from those sales as well
and “If you take all ‘sin’ off the table, you’ll lose a lot.”
During the course of the evening it was also explained why McCumber
is selling gasoline below cost. Between McCumber and Arneaud they
explained that the bigger corporations are setting the price locally
because they can afford to lose money on gasoline. They can afford
to lose money because they are supplementing their income through
the convenience products and gaming. Smaller businesses such as
Fifth Street Food Mart and Qik-n-EZ have to match the price in order
to get gasoline sales, and hope that they will earn enough in
convenience item sales to break even. Right now, neither man feels
they are accomplishing this, which is why they want to add the
As the discussion began to wind down, Snyder asked the council what
they wanted to do. Kathy Horn said it should go on the agenda. No
one objected to this. It is expected that the council will vote on
the motion at next week’s Monday night session. The council does
have the right to table any item on the agenda if they feel they are
not prepared to take a vote.
[By NILA SMITH]