Dixon council denies liquor license, cites gaming concerns

DIXON — Citing gaming concerns, the Dixon City Council on Monday voted down amending the city code to increase the number of D and D1 liquor licenses to 18.

The 3-2 vote comes after the council at its March 18 meeting tabled a motion to amend the code to increase the number of D and D-1 liquor licenses, which allow serving alcohol on site, from 17 to 18. The possible amendment was created in response to an earlier presentation from Hometown Pantry, a 23-year-old Dixon business that predominately sells packaged carry-out liquor and now also wants to pour and serve liquor at the business.

Prior to the vote, some council members questioned whether more gaming machines are wanted or should be added to the 149 already operating within the city. That led a majority of council members Monday night to vote down the additional liquor license because doing so would mean the business, located at 110 E. Seventh St., could apply to the state for a gaming license.

“While I have respect for the businesses in our community that are looking to revamp their business model to a more productive business model, and I understand that as you have to evolve. I respect them looking at that piece,” said Councilwoman Mary Oros. “The problem that I have with this is, and it is no fault of our business community, and actually the bone I have to pick is with the state of Illinois.”

She said the state ties liquor licenses to gaming licenses and that if a liquor license was issued to the business, it could then apply to the state for a gaming license. The city would have no control as to whether the business would receive the gaming license.

“At some point we have to decide as a community, I feel, what we’re comfortable with, what we like, what we want to see on the corners of our community,” Oros said. “I struggle greatly with having to choose this or that. Because I really don’t think we should have to do that. That is just how the state has modeled this.”

“So for me I try to look at the best use of that space and I just don’t see that in that location,” she said. “It pains me to do that because I recognize that businesses are trying to do the best they can and look at different business models because maybe they’re forced to because of conditions, but I just don’t feel like having a pour license at that location, based on the size of what that is, would be conducive to that.”

Regarding the request, Councilman Dennis Considine said the gaming issue was the “elephant in the room.” While he said he didn’t want to come across as trying to be a moral compass, he would vote no because he is hearing many constituents do not want more gambling environments in the community.

The business really doesn’t want a pour license, but wants the pour license to get the gaming license, Considine said. “That also charged me up a little bit,” he said.

Councilman Mike Venier said he wanted to make clear he didn’t want to discourage new restaurants from coming to town, and that the council would be open to granting a request to an establishment that makes a greater percentage of its revenue from food sales when compared to alcohol sales. As such, he does not want to issue a pour liquor license to an establishment with predominately carry-out liquor sales.

Mayor Glen Hughes, who supported the measure, told the council the recent liquor license request came from Hometown Pantry as it seeks to adjust its business model based on the way the business has evolved due to its location.

Hughes also reminded the council that the city at some point, estimated to be prior to 2016, awarded another carry-out establishment with a pour license. That establishment does have gaming machines, according to council discussion.

In the end, Hughes and Councilman Chris Bishop voted yes to the request. Oros, Venier and Considine voted against it.

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.