Joliet gas station project gets liquor license

Future of city ban on gas station liquor sales in doubt

The Gas N Wash project on the city’s far West Side is getting a Joliet liquor license under conditions aimed at side-stepping the city restriction on packaged liquor sales at gas stations.

But the city ordinance banning gas station liquor sales may be weakening after a successful legal challenge by another gas station owner who wants to add packaged liquors.

The Gas N Wash license, approved by the City Council on Tuesday, was issued with an allowance the city has made elsewhere in the past, Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis said.

“What we told them is that they need to have a separate building with a separate address for liquor sales,” Regis said.

That is what will happen at the Gas N Wash being built at the corner of Theodore Street and Drauden Road, said attorney Michael Hansen, who represents the business.

“It will be in a separate building,” Hansen said. “We’ll keep it in a separate building.”

But the future of the city’s ban on packaged liquor sales may be in question after a November decision by the Illinois State Liquor Commission.

The commission ruled in favor of Terry Lambert, owner of a Mobil station being remodeled at the corner of Route 53 and Theodore Street.

Lambert sought liquor sales after the city made a special accommodation for the new Thorntons built on Collins Street. Thorntons was given a liquor license, which made it possible for the station also to host video gambling, in a deal in which the company agreed to spend more than $300,000 to relocate the historic Casseday house from the construction site to another location.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who also is the city’s liquor commissioner, opposed the Thorntons license, saying his office constantly turns down gas stations seeking permission for packaged liquor sales.

But the council approved the license.

The Thorntons liquor license was key to the state liquor commission decision in favor of Lambert’s case, said his attorney, Jim Murphy.

“It was definitely a factor in the case,” Murphy said of the city’s approval of the Thorntons license. “There was no reason to do what they did unless they repealed the prohibition against selling liquor at a gas station.”

The state commission voted in favor of Lambert on Nov. 18. But the commission has not yet issued a final written ruling on the decision.

Murphy said the city could appeal the commission ruling.

Regis said the city is waiting for the written ruling before deciding what to do next.

The city ban on gas station liquor sales already had exceptions before the Thorntons decision. But those exceptions were related to state law providing for liquor sales at truck stops and other large-volume gas dealers that qualified for video gambling licenses.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News