By Joe Boyle
Video gaming has been approved for Evergreen Park but with some reservations.
The Evergreen Park Village Board approved an ordinance that will allow video gaming to operate in 12 restaurants under certain specifications.
However, Mayor James Sexton said this only allows certain restaurants to install video gaming. Decisions still have to be made on what businesses are eligible and how many will be distributed.
"It's a way of enhancing the state of businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic," Sexton said during the board meeting on Monday night. "That's why we are doing this."
The mayor said that he is not interested in awarding licenses to hot dog stand type businesses or to cafes. The licenses will be given to established restaurants who could use the financial assistance, he said
The board approved the measure by a 5-1-1 margin. Trustee Mark Phelan opposed it while Kelly Burke abstained. Sexton added a yes vote.
Attorney Vince Cainkar will now accept applications for certain types of businesses to install video gaming. The businesses approved for video gaming licenses in the village will still be required to receive one from the state.
Cainkar said that gas stations and food stores would not be eligible for having video gaming.
"If you go to the food store you should be buying food," Sexton said. "We would not be talking about this but it's to help businesses that have been hurt by the virus."
Village Treasurer John Sawyers said that video gaming at established restaurants could result in a minimum of $300,000 to $400,000 a year for Evergreen Park.
Cainkar said that at least 18 businesses have expressed an interest in video gaming. No more than six machines would be allowed for each of the 12 businesses, he said. Many of the businesses who are interested will not be eligible due to a lack of size and other reasons, Cainkar added.
The attorney mentioned that if the board desired, they could change the number of businesses eligible to install video gaming. Certain parameters will be put in before allowing video gaming at some restaurants. The area set up for video gaming should be blocked off from children.
Cainkar added that the local liquor commissioner will ultimately decide on what businesses will receive and operate with video gaming licenses. The liquor commissioner will also have the authority to suspend or revoke a license of a business that does not follow provisions set forth in the village's video gaming ordinance.
Sexton added that a decision had to be made now for struggling businesses due to the pandemic.
"As I mentioned in the beginning, I just think things will get worse in regards to the virus for now," Sexton said.
Another ordinance was tabled for a later date on rezoning property along the 9600 block of South Kedize Avenue and to close off traffic on 96th street for additional parking for the Chi-Tung Restaurant.
One nearby resident complained that cutting off traffic on 96th Street will create more congestion along adjacent streets and Kedzie Avenue. Sexton said he understood her concerns and would be monitoring the situation after having talks with the owners of Chi-Tung, a popular restaurant in Evergreen Park that offers a variety of Asian food.
Sexton added the village's zoning board did approve the measure. However, Trustee Carol Kyle is concerned about closing up 96th Street and believed it would be better to discuss this issue and to come up with a better alternative.
"I don't mind delaying the vote, but I don't think it's going to change anything," Sexton said. "It comes down to logistics. We have shut down other blocks for businesses like Pete's (Market) and Little Company of Mary."
Trustee Mark Marzullo also requested to table the issue and the board approved. Trustee Ed McQuillan voted no.
Marzullo also thanked the village's police and fire departments for their support and participation in a surprise drive-by birthday celebration held for Evergreen Park resident Frank Brzeczek, a World War II Army veteran who turned 95 years old on Oct. 10. Marzullo, along with McQuillan, helped organize the parade past the veteran's house that included Army trucks, police and fire trucks, neighbors and relatives.
"It was the most amazing turnout of people," Marzullo said. "Many thanks to the police and fire departments for all their work. He is such an amazing guy and so humble. He said to me that he is just a regular guy and he doesn't deserve this. He does deserve this. He didn't ask for anything special. He served because that's what he was supposed to do. He is part of the greatest generation."
Sexton agreed and said he wished more could be done for World War II veterans. Marzullo presented Brzeczek with a proclamation from Sexton.
Sexton also said that everyone has to be diligent to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"It has not gone away and its starting to go up," Sexton said. "Now younger people are starting to get it. We must keep wearing masks, social distance and wash your hands frequently."
The board also approved a business license for At Vapes Inc., which is moving several doors down to 8730 S. Kedzie Ave. A Dunkin' Donuts is moving from Chicago to 8740 S. Kedzie Ave., where At Vapes was formerly located. Super Nails has a new owner at 10034 S. Kedzie Ave. Smokey Bear, a tobacco store, is also under new ownership at 8701 S. Kedzie. The board approved all the changes.