Wednesday, May 21, 2014
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City says “No” to Liquor Pour License

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[May 21, 2014]  LINCOLN - Monday evening, there were several guests at the voting session of the Lincoln City Council. While there were four or five on hand to discuss the downtown streetscape plans, the majority were there to hear what would happen in a vote regarding adding a liquor pour license to city code or allowing tombstones to be sold at a mortuary in a residential district.

As the evening began, Mayor Keith Snyder said he would be jumping around in the agenda to accommodate hearing from the guests on the issue they were concerned about.

The council first witnessed the swearing in of Lincoln Police Chief Ken Greenslate, then the appointment and swearing in of Deputy Chief Michael Geriets. They approved the consent agenda, then veered from the agenda order to discuss the pour license.

Snyder called on the first person who had requested to speak. Bob Arneaud of Qik-n-EZ said he had nothing to say at the moment, but reserved the right to speak after the others had spoken.

Snyder then called on Dale Ridgway. Ridgway was very vocal about the video gaming machines when the city was considering allowing them in 2012. He told the council then that he was addicted to gambling and it had cost him $60,000 in gambling losses.

This week Ridgway spoke out again. He began by speaking about the good things that he sees in Lincoln. He said he recalled a Springfield television network coming to Lincoln during the annual Together for Lincoln day and filming the community helping out those who were in need. He said it was something to be proud of and he had been excited about.

With sarcasm, he said he had considered calling that network and asking them to come back because the city now had something new to be proud of. He finished saying that thought had been his anger speaking, and it was something he saw all the time in the Co-dependency group he is involved with, people lashing out in anger.

Ridgway told the council that he knew people who were addicted to gambling that had steered clear of it for a long time, but got sucked back in with the new video gaming machines.

He added that for addicts, the addition of alcohol will make things worse. He said their losses would lead to increased drinking, which would lead to accidents and violent behavior.

He ended his comments saying he was concerned for those who would have to deal with these patrons. He said owners, managers, and staff would have to become bouncers, psychologists, and cops when things went wrong in their stores.

Next to speak was Leslie Cooper. Cooper had been at the meeting last Tuesday night and spoke out against the pour license. She spoke very briefly on Monday night, saying she appreciated the council and what they do, and that she respected them as the city’s governing body.

She asked them to remember what their mission for Lincoln is and asked them where they would put this (liquor and gaming in convenience stores) in a brochure about the town.

When Cooper finished, Snyder asked for a motion. Kathy Horn moved to approve the request for the creation of a pour license. The motion was seconded by Tom O’Donohue, though, he indicated then he was doing it so that the council could move forward without the motion dying on the floor.

During discussion, Horn spoke first, defending her motion. She said that she knew McCumber Cliff McCumber of 5th Street Food Mart was the petitioner), and knew he was doing this for the sake of his business. She said she also knew that he would “be right on top” of things if the gaming and liquor were allowed. She emphasized McCumber’s previous claims that he didn’t want the pour license in order to serve liquor. He needs the license in order to offer gaming. She said she wanted to support business in Lincoln, and she could not vote against something that would help his business.

Marty Neitzel spoke next saying that she too was all for promoting business in Lincoln. She supports McCumber as a small business owner, but she would like to see him come up with another way to resolve his problems. She told the group, “I am against the liquor, I am not against the machines.”

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Melody Anderson had been absent for the Tuesday night workshop session when McCumber stated his case for the license. She said on Monday night that she had since spoken with McCumber.

Anderson said she appreciated the way McCumber had come to the council and approached the topic in a very professional manner, but she would not be supporting the request. She told the council, “I did express to him that at this time I cannot support this ordinance change. I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t consider it in the future, but as things stand right now, I can’t.”

City Treasurer Chuck Conzo spoke up in favor of the request. He told the council that what it really comes down to, is that gaming is already allowed in Lincoln. He said, “That ship has sailed about 18 months ago. What is really in question here is do you want a level playing field so they (Fifth Street Food Mart and Qik-N-Ez) can compete fairly with their competitors.”

O’Donohue said that while he agreed with Conzo on the gaming, this was not just about gaming, it was also about alcohol being served in a convenience store. He said he had heard from more people on this topic than any other since he has been an alderman. He said he had no objections to gaming, he had no objections to alcohol. He finished saying, “While the gambling issue has come and gone, this is about the liquor issue. I just don’t like what doing it this way says about our community.”

Conzo made one last comment in response to O’Donohue. He said alcohol is already legal in Lincoln too. He added that there are already places that create a lot more problems than the food mart would.

Michelle Bauer also spoke up on the issue. At the Tuesday night meeting she had appeared to be in support of the request. She had said then that 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 added that she believed people who were going for the purpose of drinking would still go to a tavern.

This week Bauer said she has spent time since last Tuesday researching what Champaign had done in denying the request there. She said the city of Lincoln now needed to consider not just Fifth Street Food Mart and Qik-N-Ez. Bauer said she knows both of these businesses, frequents them often, and trusts they would handle things properly. But, the issue becomes others who might apply for the license.

She told the council, “We can’t be elitists. I do think there is a potential of opening somewhat of a Pandora’s Box for the city to be asked to allow other establishments to create different types of revenue. That’s where the issue is at this point. There are other businesses that I don’t know I would feel as comfortable with.”

After Bauer finished, Snyder asked if there were any other comments. When no one responded he called for the vote. With all eight aldermen present Monday night, seven - Anderson, Bauer, Scott Cooper, Jeff Hoinacki, Neitzel, O’Donohue, and Jonie Tibbs voted “no.” The sole “yes” vote came from Horn, and the motion failed.

McCumber was present for the vote and left along with several others immediately after the motion failed.


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