July 08--PEORIA -- Video-gambling cafes aren't necessarily out of luck in Peoria. But the house is trying to shift the odds a bit more in its favor.
During its meeting Monday, the Peoria Liquor Commission deferred a request to approve licenses for two locations that would feature video gambling as their primary reason for existence.
The deferral came one day before the City Council is to vote on an ordinance change that might restrict video-gambling cafes. Commissioners and the establishments' owner suggested it might be better to see what the council decides before they proceed.
"This thing really bothers me," said at-large Councilman Eric Turner, who also is deputy liquor commissioner. "We're pretty much heading down this path where you can open up in a broom closet and basically put in legalized gaming.
"It has the potential to kill our regular businesses."
Snacks are to be offered for free, according to Annie's owner Chris Smith, who is based in the Quad Cities. She plans to impose a four-drink limit.
"It's strictly toward people who just want to come in and gamble and not be bothered by smoke and a lot of drinking going on," Smith said. "They just want to come in and play."
Annie's lack of anything besides rudimentary sustenance appeared to irk Turner and some commission members.
"A cafe to me is food," commissioner Virginia White said. "This is not a cafe to me."
The ordinance change would allow the commission and council to consider proximity of video-gambling cafes to existing liquor licensees that have such terminals. The council also could require establishments be open for at least one year before video gambling is permitted.
Last month, the commission and council approved for alcohol sales a Central Peoria site for a different video-gambling cafe business. But some council members expressed misgivings about the concept. Hence the proposed change.
"It's another ability to look at the big picture and say, 'We're concerned about the proliferation and we want to address it,'" said Sonni Williams, the deputy city attorney.
Nick Vlahos can be reached at 686-3285 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @VlahosNick.