After debate, Lincoln aldermen approve new liquor license structure

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[January 10, 2019] 

On Monday evening, Lincoln aldermen met for the first voting session of the month, and the year 2019. Among the action items coming before the council was the decision to re-vamp the liquor license for the city.

The motion to approve the recommended changes from the December 26th meeting passed with a vote of 5-2-1.

Aldermen who voted yes included Michelle Bauer, Heidi Browne, Dayne Dalpoas, Ron Keller and Steve Parrott. Those who voted no were Jeff Hoinacki and Tracy Welch. Ron Fleshman abstained from the vote.

There were a number of objections during the discussion period with the majority centering around the thought that perhaps the council was rushing into making a decision without fully thinking through the process.

Hoinacki questioned the $500 fine for three consecutive years saying that he felt that there would be those who opted to pay the fine and keep on operating for the three years rather than try to improve their percentages. He also said there was nothing to indicate once the license was pulled how long it would be before an establishment could apply for a license again.

There was some confusion about the percentages that Hoinacki was referring to. Initially some thought that the 30 percent referred to on December 26th meant that the business with a liquor license and video gaming would have to show that 30 percent or more of their gross revenue came from food, liquor or other products. However it was just the opposite. The rule that would apply to the business would dictate that 30 percent or LESS of the total gross revenue came from video gambling.

Bauer said that businesses would be unlikely to run three consecutive years just paying the fine because the business had to show improvement in its percentages in year two to continue to have their license.

Hoinacki said that in the original vote in 2014 he voted against the license changes that ultimately allowed video gambling in Lincoln and he would once again this year vote against these changes.

Included in the changes made - the prior B & C class license would be combined into one B license that would cover restaurants, pubs, saloons, bowling alleys and other business establishments where liquor is served in house. These are the establishments that the state of Illinois have determined may have up to five gambling machines on the premises. The city has no control over the issuance of video gambling licenses, because in 2014 aldermen voted to allow the machine in the city. The only control they had was to vote either for or against allowing video gambling. Once that decision was made, the state then had control of the licensing process.

Welch commented that he planned to vote no on the motion because he felt the city was “putting the cart before the horse.” He noted that the discussions in past weeks had focused on establishing rules and enforcing them. But he said there was nothing in writing detailing what the exact rules were and how they would be enforced. He said he didn’t know if that enforcement was a rule or if it would be part of a policy and procedure but regardless, he felt that there should be an outline before the city agrees to the proposed changes.

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Steve Parrot said that the new rules won’t apply to any of the licenses until their renewal time on May 1st 2020. He said therefore, the city and the liquor commission had time to outline and put in writing the policy. Welch objected to this saying that everything should be in place so that the city knows what it is doing before it passes the amended ordinance.

Keller questioned the establishment of a payment to commissioners for their meeting time. The new rules will include a $25 stipend for each commissioner for each meeting he or she attends. Keller wanted to know if other commissioners were paid and if not why not.

City Clerk Peggy Bateman said that, yes, some of the other commissioners were paid. Off the top of her head she recalled that the commissions that received payment include the Fire and Police Commission, Lincoln Zoning Board, and the Civil Service Commission. She said that most commissions paid $25 per meeting, but one pays only $10 per meeting.

City Treasurer Chuck Conzo said the reasoning behind the payments was based on the amount of time and effort the commissioners had to put into serving. He said that the $25 was being added to the liquor commission because with the change in rules and the new requirements, it would add up to more work and more detailed meetings for those on the commission.

Parrott questioned if it would be acceptable for convenience stores for the business to sell to itself basically. There are stores such as Fifth Street Food Mart and Qik-N-EZ that have divided their building into two parts. On one side is the gaming room where liquor is served. On the other side is the typical convenience store. The two sections are separated with walls and each have their own entrance, so technically they are two businesses. However, because the gaming side must now prove that at least 70 percent of its revenues comes from the sale of products, will it be acceptable for the gaming side to sell products to the convenience store side?

Welch continued to state that he felt that the city had rushed into this and was not fully prepared to pass an amendment to the ordinance. Parrott however said that like any other ordinance, when and if something comes up that the city has to address, it can do so and amend the ordinance again.

As the discussion wound down, Mayor Seth Goodman called for the vote and the motion made by Bauer and seconded by Parrott passed.

For those holding the license, they will be required to monitor their revenues in 2019 and assure that no more than 30 percent of those revenues come from gambling. They will have to show proof of this when they file their annual renewal application in April of 2020.

[Nila Smith]

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