Vice regulation and taxation were the talk of the Jacksonville City Council last night. The meeting began with a lengthy discussion in the workshop meeting about switching the JP Convenience Store on the corner of Prairie and Lafayette from a Double-A Class liquor license, which allows purchase only of liquor on premises to a class Double-C liquor license, which would allow both purchase and consumption of liquor on premise. Owner Bobby Patel was in the audience along with Michael Rowe-Trammell of Excel Entertainment to explain the reasoning for the change. Patel told the council that he would like to add gaming to the location to sustain the business.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Lori Large-Oldenettel had some concerns about moving the license classification from Double-A to Double-C. “I think it’s something that the council really has to look – what do we envision Jacksonville being. Before, when this came up to the council, one of the things that we felt strongly about is there are people who will gamble and spend their money elsewhere, which is fine. The concern was about families who aren’t in favor of it, who don’t want to walk into every establishment in town and see someone gambling or someone drinking all the time.”
Oldenettel said the issue came up in 2014 when gaming parlors were first introduced to the city. Oldenettel also said that many citizens spoke up when theatres were allowed to sell beer on premise. She hopes that a balance can be struck and that citizens can provide input. City Attorney Dan Beard said that if the convenience store was allowed the license then virtually all Double-A licensed businesses would apply for the Double-C and be allowed. This, in effect, would open all convenience stores and grocery stores to sell liquor and allow for consumption on premise, as well. Oldenettel explained: “The mayor and the city attorney explained tonight if we open it up for one place, it would most likely open the doors for everyone to come forward and apply. It would be everywhere. People would be able to serve alcohol at a convenience store. What would be the difference than not going to a bar? I think it’s something we need to get a handle on and hear from the community about what direction they want us to go in.”
Oldenettel hopes that ample feedback from the community will be strong on the matter moving forward. “I think there’s a balance. We just need to figure out what that balance is. The reason I brought up [my objections] tonight was to really inform some of the newer members of the council about where we were when we first started having gaming parlors and where we are today. I think it would be great if we could hear from the people who live here and how they feel about it. I hope they use their voices about how they feel about expanding liquor sales in convenience stores.”
The city also was informed by Attorney Beard that he had a draft ordinance to present to the council about zoning and taxation for adult use cannabis that he received at the Illinois Municipal League Conference over the weekend. The draft ordinance, he said, should be passed as soon as possible so that the Illinois Department of Revenue can collect and distribute sales tax to the city. In response, the council approved of calling for a special meeting on Friday at noon to hear the first reading of the ordinance and pass an emergency clause to have the ordinance put in city code so it can be sent to IDR by October 1st for the tax collection deadline. The council set a preliminary tax limit at 3%. The city is also asking for public comment at that time. None of the vice items received any further action on the night.
The council approved a local bid of $166,148 on a concrete wall at 201 East Morgan Street, as well as a bid for the new shoot house construction at the Jacksonville Police Department’s training facility which will be partially funded by state money. Chief Adam Mefford also asked the council to release him to dispose of and recycle old equipment, car parts, and other miscellaneous items to sell, donate, or recycle. The council also approved a 3 year contract with Cass Cable TV for Internet service at the fire department substation for $110 per month. The Internet service will replace the old phone line original to the building from the 1970s. All items passed without incident.
After the special meeting on Friday, the next official city council will be October 14th at the Municipal Building at 200 West Douglas Avenue.