By Joe Boyle
Nick Kontos, who owns the Shell gas station at the corner of 103nd and Harlem Avenue in Palos Hills, wants a level playing field for his business.
Kontos said that his spacious service station has been a fixture in the city since he and his wife initially began the operation in 2009. However, the business climate has changed dramatically in recent years due to the influx of video gaming that has a larger presence in the city and neighboring communities.
The gas station owner said that video gaming in the area had had a negative effect on his business.
“I don’t want slot machines in my business,” Kontos told the Palos Hills City Council during their meeting last Thursday night. “But I would like to have them in a separate building that would be a café. We have businesses around us that have video gaming. All you have to do is go up and down Harlem Avenue and they are there. I think we need this to survive.”
Kontos had mentioned this as a possibility a few years ago to Palos Hills Mayor Gerald Bennett. The mayor mentioned that at last week’s meeting and admitted perhaps it is time to look at Kontos’ concerns.
“Nick brought this up a few years ago,” Bennett said. “Keep in mind that the laws have changed this year in regards to video gaming. Gas stations are now allowed to have video gaming.”
Kontos said that he wants to continue to run an upscale gas station and make some changes. Kontos said he doesn't want to just insert video games throughout the gas station. He would have them in a separate building that would be more like a café.
Ald. Ricky Moore (4 th) informed the gas station owner that he will seriously consider his request.
“You’ve had a business here for a long time and you have a good business,” Moore said. “I can tell you that I will seriously consider your requests. I will definitely look at your plans and see what we can come up with.”
“I’ve been here 15 years and I want to be here another 15 years,” Kontos said. “But we need (video gaming) to survive. We used to be one of the top gas stations for the Lottery. Now we are down to a couple of machines because of all the gaming in the area. We are willing to work with the board to come up with a plan.”
Bennett did mention that Speedway has contacted the city about inserting video gaming in their building. He added that Thorntons, which will be located at 111 th and Roberts Road, will also most likely ask for video gaming as well.
“Nick is suggesting a café, a free-standing operation,” Bennett said. “It will be separate from the gas station.”
Kontos said that he will have an architect put an outline together to present to the board in January.
“I’m willing to talk to the board to come up with any ideas,” Kontos said. “I will do whatever is necessary.”
The board will discuss Kontos’ proposal at the Thursday, Jan. 16 board meeting.
As reported at a previous city council meeting, a business license was issued for Derma Plus, 10419 S. Roberts Road. The new business will provide skin esthetics services.
Absent from last Thursday’s board were Aldermen Joe Marrotta (4 th), Dawn Nowak (5 th) and Donna O’Connell (5 th).
The next city council meeting will be held Thursday, Jan. 2.