By Bob Uphues
A liquor license request from the owner of a Brookfield fast-food stand looks like it's going nowhere after the village board expressed reservations about his reason for wanting to sell beer and wine – to profit from video gambling.
Mario Zavaleta, owner of Danny's Pizza and Beef, 9123 Ogden Ave., told village board members at their April 23 committee of the whole meeting that he wanted a liquor license because that was a state requirement for being able to apply for a gaming license.
"I was thinking about bringing the gaming machines in there, and you have to have a liquor license," Zavaleta said. "That's why I want it, to have the gambling machines in there."
Brookfield has allowed video gambling in its bars and restaurants since 2012 and at present there are 68 video gambling terminals in 14 establishments in the village.
And they are quite popular.
In 2017, players fed almost $13,275,000 into local video gambling terminals, with a total net terminal income of about $3.25 million, according to information provided by the Illinois Gaming Board.
Of that net revenue total, 30 percent was skimmed off the top in taxes to be shared by the state and the village. The state of Illinois' share was $813,453, while the village of Brookfield collected $162,690.
The remaining $2,277,642 was divided evenly between the establishments and gaming machine vendors – based, of course, on how much gambling income was generated at each establishment.
For some places, the income from gambling in 2017 was modest. Brixie's Saloon, for example, took in $31,569 last year from its five machines.
For others, it is a windfall. Cordial Inn, which has been Brookfield's video gambling income champ since the start, raked in $198,031 in 2017 from its five machines. Since 2012, Cordial Inn's take from video gambling receipts has been almost $1.14 million.
So, it's no surprise that adding video gambling machines is attractive for a small business.
While video gambling has been an important source of income for some businesses and, to a lesser extent, the village, officials in 2015 took steps to prevent video gambling parlors from opening by requiring any liquor license holder to wait a year before applying for a local gambling license.
Danny's Pizza and Beef is particularly small. Zavaleta admitted to trustees that most of his business was carryout. The dining area itself has four tables.
Village President Kit Ketchmark told Zavaleta that giving a liquor license to a carryout business for the express purpose of obtaining gambling machines was troubling.
"I'm not sure that is something that this board would support," Ketchmark said.
Trustee Michael Garvey said that granting such a license might trigger other requests from carryout businesses and might set the village down a slippery slope.
"If we're doing this, I believe we'll be flooded with other applications for this," Garvey said.
With state requirements about separating video gambling machines from the dining area, some trustees wondered whether it was feasible to squeeze machines in the business.
"You'd be lucky to get 12 sitting down there," said Trustee Ryan Evans. "By the time you went through with a plan to add video gaming and met the state requirements, you'd have even less room for people to be sitting there.
"I'd be hard-pressed on this one."
Trustees are expected vote the liquor license request up or down at their meeting on May 14.
Citgo seeks liquor license
While a liquor license for Danny's Pizza and Beef appears to be in doubt, trustees appeared much more amenable to granting a liquor license to the owner of the Citgo gas station at 3419 Maple Ave.
Joseph Mullappallil, the business owner, seeks to get a Class 3 liquor license which allows the carryout sale of beer, wine and spirits from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday.
The gas station would gain additional revenue from liquor sales, Mullappallil said, particularly later at night, after other businesses close.
Trustees noted the village has granted similar gas station liquor licenses in the past and remarked on improvements Mullappallil has made to the business during his five-year tenure there.