By Bob Uphues
The owner of the Brookfield Ale House, 8900 Fairview Ave., is in the process of expanding into the storefront immediately north of his year-old restaurant/bar, but village trustees expressed some wariness last week that the plan is veering close to creating what might be construed as a standalone gambling parlor.
Steve Landrey, the owner of the Brookfield Ale House, said that isn't his intention, saying he's opening up the wall separating the two storefronts in order to connect them. On Dec. 11, Landrey outlined his plan for village officials at the village board's committee of the whole meeting.
He told trustees he'd like to obtain a license to located video gambling machines in the storefront at 3750 Grand Blvd., most recently home to an e-cigarette shop, Cignot. In addition to the machines, Landrey said he would place furniture, a communal table and a women's restroom in the space.
The décor of the Ale House would extend into the new space, said Landrey, with the intention of creating a unified business stylistically while separating the restaurant from the gaming machines.
According to Landrey, the Brookfield Ale House does a brisk business Thursday-Sunday, but finds things rather quiet from Monday through Wednesday. The additional income it would derive from video gambling makes the machines attractive, he said.
"As a businessman I'm going to pursue every option," Landrey said. "Any little revenue we can bring in is going to really, really help."
Landrey has signed a one-year lease on the roughly 1,100-square-foot space and has been working with the village's building department on the plans. Illinois Gaming Board records indicate that Brookfield Ale House applied for a state gaming license in June. That application is still pending.
In 2015, the village board voted to require any business with a liquor license to wait one year before applying for a local video gambling license. The reason for the waiting period was to weed out establishments, so-called gaming parlors, where gambling was the main focus.
Brookfield Ale House celebrated its first anniversary in mid-November, and Landrey is the first business owner to apply for a gambling license under the new, more restrictive rules imposed by the village.
While trustees generally supported Landrey's request to add video gambling to his establishment, the proposed location of a second entrance to the Brookfield Ale House – immediately next door to the new storefront – has raised some eyebrows.
Landrey said state gaming officials require the entrance to a gaming area to be observable at all times. His proposed solution was to create a new entrance at the north end of the Ale House, where those interested in gambling can enter without having to walk through the entire length of the restaurant.
"Customers that don't want to play games, they just don't want to see them or hear them," Landrey said.
The flipside of that is also true. Landrey said he has signed an agreement with Accel Entertainment, a video gaming vendor, to help him navigate the move to include machines in his business.
"The gamers traditionally don't want to come through the place, if they're just playing the games," said Landrey of the advice he received from his contact at Accel Entertainment. "True gamers, they may not want to be in the restaurant."
That concept drew some pushback from Trustee David LeClere, who said he supported Landrey's application for video gambling machines – even using the new storefront for the location. But he didn't like the new entrance.
"I think that's going to kind of turn out to be what we don't [want]," LeClere said. "Right now, I think it's an entrance to a gaming place that can get you to the Ale House."
Village President Kit Ketchmark also threw cold water on the new entrance. Restaurants, he said were a key for downtown revitalization. While video gambling can be part of that business model, Ketchmark said, standalone gaming locations are not part of the plan.
"A storefront casino does not add to our downtown revitalization, and I think the concern is that we don't want that. We want to see you succeed as the Ale House."
The village board is expected to make a decision on Landrey's application at their next meeting on Jan. 8, 2018.