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Chicago Ridge shelves plan for gas station cafe with gaming

A proposed café with video gaming in the Thorntons gas station at 10559 S. Harlem Ave. in Chicago Ridge has been shelved, perhaps for good, after company representatives failed to attend the Village Board meeting on March 20 where it was to be discussed for a second time. Rather than being postponed, discussion of the proposal was stricken from the agenda on March 20, meaning that the backers will have to ask to come back before the board. The idea received a cool reception from most of the six trustees when Joseph Reed, a Thorntons representative, came to the village board meeting on March 6 seeking the liquor license needed for video gaming. He wanted to exchange the gas station’s current B-1 license, allowing packaged liquor sales for the B-2 license needed for video gaming, which allows liquor to be poured on the premises. Reed said a contained 10-foot by 10-foot area called Thornton’s Tap would hold five video gaming terminals adjacent to a cashier for easy monitoring. Plans called for offering cans of beer for $6, which would be kept in a refrigerator behind the cashier. Mayor Chuck Tokar and Trustee Jack Lind expressed support for the idea at the original meeting. But the four other trustees raised objections such as oversaturation of video gaming, and well as even serving alcohol at a gas station because of the possibility of drinking and driving. Trustee Ed Kowalski, at the March 6 meeting, pointed to existing problems related to loitering and alcohol at the gas station, and in preparation for the March 20 meeting, he looked at crime statistics between 2015 and 2017. “It was a big concern, and I did follow up,” said Kowalski this week. “We found there were over 1,500 calls for service to that location, for accidents, theft, and alcohol-related issues,” said the trustee. “There were about 15 calls a month over the past two years, involving some type of alcohol-related issue,” he said. Kowalski said he also didn’t buy Reed’s contention that very little alcohol would be sold there due to the price. “If people want the alcohol, they will find a way to get it. I don’t want them to be committing crimes in the area to get the money,” he said Monday. Trustee Bill McFarland had similar concerns, as well as reservations about video gaming in general. “Video gaming is such a divided issue. To help existing businesses stay in town and compete with neighboring businesses, I am 100 percent for it. But it really has to be taken on a case-by-case basis,” said McFarland, explaining why the board voted unanimously to give a gaming license to La Playita restaurant on March 6, but not others. He and Kowalski said the Thorntons proposal was especially unusual, and do not give it much chance of ever getting approved. “I highly doubt they will be bringing it back,” said Kowalski of Thorntons. “We have some real huge issues with it. I don’t think the board was very receptive. So, if they do come back, they will have a lot of questions to answer.”

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