The owner of the standalone video gambling establishment Lucky Day Gaming Café at 8400 26th St. in North Riverside will appear before the North Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission on April 20 to request zoning relief in order to erect a new 12.5-foot-tall pole sign, replacing an existing non-conforming sign.

The hearing will take place in the council chamber at the North Riverside Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave., at 6 p.m. Any recommendation by the commission would be considered by the village board, which will have the final say.

Robert Houpy, who founded the Lucky Dog restaurant chain, operates four Lucky Day gambling establishments, two of which are in North Riverside. 

In addition to the location at the northwest corner of First Avenue and 26th Street, there’s a Lucky Day café in the strip mall Houpy owns at 7929 Cermak Road. The other two locations are in Melrose Park and Cicero.

The 26th Street location, whose opening was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, became the village’s 10th standalone video gambling parlor when it opened its doors in 2022.

The owner of Lucky Day Gaming Cafe wants zoning variances to erect a new pole sign (above) to replace the existing one, which is no longer allowed by the village’s code. | PROVIDED

Houpy’s petition for relief does not list the exact sections of the zoning code he’s looking to obtain variances for, but a letter from Houpy’s attorney, Michael Maksimovich, makes reference to at least three.

Pole signs, such as the one standing on the property now, are no longer allowed in the B-3 zoning district where the gambling parlor is located. If Houpy wanted to replace the sign without seeking zoning relief, he would need to erect a monument sign, which is defined in the code as “a freestanding sign supported primarily by an internal structural framework or integrated into landscaping or other solid structural features other than support poles.”

In addition, monument signs in the B-3 district must be no more than 8 feet tall. Houpy is asking the village to allow the new pole sign to be 12.5 feet tall.

While it’s not referenced in his petition, Houpy would need at least one other variation from the zoning code for the new sign he’s proposing, a smaller, diamond-shaped design similar to the landmark “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that welcomes visitors to that desert gambling mecca.

The proposed sign shows exposed light bulbs protruding from the edges of the sign, like a theater marquee, which are not allowed by the zoning code.

Maksimovich’s letter to the village states that “a large component” of the gambling parlor’s clientele are truck drivers and claims “drivers will not be readily able to see a sign that is not elevated in size with the lights advertising the location.”

A monument sign, Maksimovich argues, would not be as visible and could be obscured by snow.

A good deal of the hardship Houpy faces if he has to replace the pole sign to conform with the code, Maksimovich says, is financial and, as such, should be grandfathered.

If the village requires the existing sign to be removed and replaced with a monument sign, Maksimovich wrote, it “will severely financially affect [Houpy’s] business and constitute a specific hardship to [Houpy] if this request for a variation is not permitted.”

So far, Lucky Day’s location at First Avenue and 26th Street appears to be doing pretty well, as is Lucky Day’s other location at Cermak and Desplaines.

According to Illinois Gaming Board reports, out of the 18 establishments in North Riverside with video gambling machines, the Lucky Day Gaming Café on Cermak Road ranked first in North Riverside in 2021 and second in 2022 in net terminal income – netting more than $1 million in each of those years.

For the first three months of 2023, the Cermak Road location was again ranked No. 1 in the village in net terminal income at $302,431.

During its first year of operation in 2022, the 26th Street Lucky Day location ranked ninth in net terminal income, but it has surged forward during the first three months of 2023, ranking second – just behind the Cermak Road location – with net terminal income of $276,848, putting it on track for $1.1 million in total net terminal revenue in 2023.