Liquor store survives contentious vote, will go up on north side of Jax

By Jim McCabe on July 29 at 12:02am

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District 117 superintendent Steve Ptacek makes a presentation to city aldermen Monday night while Bobby Patel (background), the owner of JP Foodmart, awaits a vote on a liquor store.

A liquor store will go up on Jacksonville’s north end after a short debate amongst Jacksonville aldermen last night.

Bobby Patel, the owner of JP Foodmart, wants to open up the store at 105 West Walnut. City council granted a liquor license to the store last month and approved the first reading of a re-zoning request earlier this month before approving the second reading at the final city council meeting of July.

The vote was six aldermen in favor, with three voting against.

Adonnis Shaw, who has consistently voted against the store, defended his “no” vote after fellow alderman Steve Warmowski questioned his “yes” vote on a liquor license that was approved for Murphy Oil, a new gas station going up near Wal-Mart.

“It’s not even a liquor store. It’s a gas station, mostly. That’s not a liquor establishment. And, the comprehensive plan, especially when it comes to the Walnut east planning district, says nothing about that. The comprehensive plan in that district says we need more grocery stores, we need to improve sidewalks and parks,” says Shaw.

“Secondly, [Murphy Oil is] not even in the school zone, it’s by Wal-Mart on the end of town. [The liquor store] location on Walnut and Main is in the school zone, it’s in Lincoln [Elementary].”

Warmowski, who voted in favor of the liquor store, talked about the benefits of having such a business on the north end of town.

“A gentleman who lives in either north Morgan County or Cass County says that he goes home that way and thinks it’s great he wouldn’t have to drive all the way through the other end of town to get his liquor, if he could just get something on the way out of town. So, that area’s not only for local residents,” Warmowski says.

“As a business district, that’s perfect for people accessing the city from the north. I think it’s a great way to get services to people passing through that end of town.”

Shaw responded, “I would love for him to become a Ward One resident, become a taxpaying citizen here in the City of Jacksonville. Until then, I don’t represent him, so I don’t really care.”

Marcy Patterson, who also approved the liquor store, once again questioned Shaw’s consistency on the issue of free enterprise.

“Six weeks or so ago, when I was opposed to gaming, you very clearly told me that we can’t mandate people’s behavior. I don’t feel like it’s my place to stop a businessman from benefitting opening his new business in order to mandate the behavior of the people in your ward,” Patterson stated.

Shaw stated his argument wasn’t based on morals, but instead on the merits of a comprehensive plan. He added that he’s received and seen plenty of anti-liquor store sentiment from Ward One constituents and beyond. However, fellow Ward One alderman Bill Scott stated that he wasn’t hearing the same feedback.

“Is it better to have an empty building there versus a business there? No, I don’t think so,” Scott said. “And I think this building, this is it’s last chance of having a viable business in it for some time. So, I’m in favor of it.”

Also voting against the store’s re-zoning request were aldermen Tony Williams and Bruce McDaniel. Mike Wankel, Don Cook, and Jenny Geirnaeirt were the other “yes” votes.

The liquor store re-zoning request was originally on the consent agenda before Shaw requested that it be pulled off so that aldermen could vote specifically on that item.

In other action at last night’s meeting, aldermen passed a resolution approving the city’s participation in the Lake Mauvaisterre Watershed Project. Jacksonville would spend about $145,000 over two years.

The grant application is due by Friday, and city officials heard from Jeff Boeckler of Northwater Consulting, the firm working on the project, who said he’s ready to submit it.

The first reading of an ordinance amending the city municipal code for the Commission on Disabilities and Human Relations. The commission currently has to do an annual report, and the ordinance would change that to every three years.

Aldermen heard from District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek, who talked about the one-cent sales tax referendum in November.