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Council says ‘no’ on beer, wine sales in gas stations, quick marts

DeKALB – Owners of convenience stores or gas stations that offer food are out of luck, at least with the current city council, when it comes to being able to sell beer or wine.

The DeKalb City Council issued a resounding and collective “no” on Monday to the potential for such establishments to offer limited alcohol sales, and said it would hinder small businesses such as independent-owned liquor stores who count on revenue from sales of alcohol and nothing else.

DeKalb does not offer such sales, unlike its neighbors, including Sycamore, Cortland, Genoa and Malta.

Mayor Jerry Smith said Monday that he and City Manager Bill Nicklas had the idea to bring the topic under council consideration because some commercial brokers recently approached the city to inquire about vacant gas station sites in DeKalb, including the city-owned property at 1101 N. First St.

“I think it’s really disingenuous for us to consider taking that opportunity away from them,” 1st Ward Alderwoman Carolyn Morris said. “I understand that we have this one location that would benefit from this potentially, but I really think we can’t harm our small-business owners. That’s not right.”

Louie Schoenberg, who owns and operates American Liquors at 159 W. Lincoln Highway, said his business and others had to pay a premium to get a Class A Liquor License back in the day. He said that when corporate grocery stores such as Jewel-Osco and Schnucks arrived on the scene a decade ago, they oversaturated the market when former city councils granted liquor licences to those stores.

“We had a system we bought into, and it’s been degraded consistently over the years,” Schoenberg said. “You’re going to make some new fees if you sell these licenses, but if you have a couple old liquor stores go out of business, you’re going to have empty buildings and lose money anyway.”

Fourth Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan said he campaigned as pro-business, and said he knows that the three package liquor stores in his ward have suffered the past 15 years.

Sixth Ward Alderman Mike Verbic said he spoke with gas station managers in his ward, and many told him they were not in favor of selling beer and wine in their stores.

“They struggle right now with behavior issues with their customers,” Verbic said. “And they can’t imagine how much they would have to staff up to be able to accommodate the alcohol business – especially overnight.”

Morris offered some words of caution.

“I would just caution the council in general to creating rules in the future that are not consistent with the rest of the state,” Morris said. “I am highly in support of protecting our small-businesses owners and don’t want to hurt them by changing the rules at this point.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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