Photo by Dermot Connolly
Thorntons Inc. is seeking a new liquor license that would allow it to offer video gaming in a cafe planned for the convenience store section of this gas station at 10559 S. Harlem Ave.
A proposal to open a café with video gaming in the Thorntons gas station at 10559 S. Harlem Ave. in Chicago Ridge will be brought up for discussion at the Village Board meeting on March 20, after several trustees objected to the idea at the meeting last week.
Joseph Reed, a Thorntons representative, came to the village board meeting on March 6 seeking the liquor license needed for video gaming. Currently, the gas station has a B-1 license, allowing packaged liquors to be sold. But in order to have video gaming, a B-2 license is needed, allowing liquor to be poured on the premises.
He explained that truck stops can offer video gaming without a pour license, but the location in question is not big enough to be considered a truck stop.
Reed said the area holding five video gaming terminals would only be 10 feet by 10 feet, and would be adjacent to a cashier for easy monitoring. He said the plan would be to offer cans of beer for $6, which would be kept in a refrigerator behind the cashier.
“The intent is not to sell alcohol. That is why the price is so high. Packaged liquors would be sold for a sixth of that price. But we need to offer it to qualify for the gaming license,” he explained.
Reed said that at a location in downstate Havana, where beer is sold at that price, only one sale a month is made.
“It’s a unique concept. I wouldn’t think that there would be a big call for that in gas stations,” said Mayor Chuck Tokar, adding that he wouldn’t be averse to allowing it because of that. Trustee Jack Lind agreed.
But several of the other trustees raised objections. Trustee Lisel Kwartnik said she was concerned about “oversaturation” of video gaming in the village.
“Right now, we have 38 video gaming licenses in the village. We need to get our code in order,” agreed Trustee Fran Coglianese.
Kwartnik said she meant that there are only a certain amount of people interested in video gaming, so the profits made at each establishment will go down if more are added.
But Tokar said that was a “business decision” that the village shouldn’t be concerned about.
Reed contended that alcohol availability isn’t what draws people to any of the video gaming cafes.
“Video gaming is their entertainment. They just want a quiet place to do it,” Reed said.
“I don’t see a lot of alcohol being sold. Who is this bothering?” asked Lind.
Trustee Deb Pyznarski said she had a problem with alcohol being made available to drink inside a gas station, due to the possibility of drinking and driving.
“My issue isn’t with oversaturation. I just have a problem with pouring alcohol at a gas station,” she said.
Trustee Ed Kowalski also pointed out that there is already a problem with homeless people hanging around at that location. He said that is due in part because it is located close to a bridge over Stony Creek, where they are known to congregate.
A store manager acknowledged that they do sometimes have to be shooed away.
“But if they wanted liquor, they can buy it much cheaper already inside the store, and drink it in the bushes,” said Reed. “Why would they want to drink it inside the video gaming area?”
“Because it is warm,” countered Kowalski.