The owner of Lucky Day Gaming Cafe wanted to erect a new pole sign at 26th Street and First Avenue, which was OK with planning and zoning commissioners, but they were not convinced about many aspects of the proposed sign’s design. | PROVIDED

The owner of Lucky Day Gaming Café at 8400 26th St. in North Riverside won a recommendation from the village’s Planning and Zoning Commission on April 20 to place a 12.5-foot-tall pole sign advertising the business, but the matter won’t go before the village board for approval until he submits a new design eliminating features the code does not allow.

Robert Houpy, who owns the property and the business, had not yet submitted a revised sign design as of late last week, said Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti. She said she had hoped to bring the recommendation for conditional approval of a pole sign to the village board’s May 15 meeting.

Scarpiniti also said she’s unsure whether Houpy might reconsider a new pole sign near the corner of First Avenue and 26th Street after the pole sign that had stood there for many years was demolished in a car crash on April 24.

Houpy did not respond to an email from the Landmark seeking comment. 

Without a revised design to consider, Scarpiniti said, it was unclear whether or not Houpy took to heart feedback from a dozen residents and planning commissioners about the proposed sign’s “garish” qualities, as one resident described it.

“The business is nestled on the edge of a residential neighborhood, and this height and the type of signage would be out of place and, in my opinion, garish,” wrote North Riverside resident Holly Neumann in an email read into the record at the April 20 Planning and Zoning Commission hearing.

“For drivers entering our neighborhood while driving northbound on First Avenue, this corner is the first impression into the village,” Neumann wrote. “A bright, tall sign advertising a gambling café is not the impression I’d like to present.”

All 12 residents commenting on the proposed sign – a smaller-scale version of the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign with marquee light bulbs illuminating its outline – urged the commission to deny zoning variances for it.

Several residents pushed back against the idea of the gambling café itself, a sore subject with many people in the village who think the cafes are not positive additions to the community.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner John Mathias, while acknowledging that village officials could not dictate the shape or colors of the sign, urged Houpy to take residents’ feedback into account. Mathias also wondered if Houpy could simply place a wall sign, which is allowed by right in the code, on the building.

“The argument is the sign, that’s all it is, whether it’s a monument, a pole, whatever,” Mathias said, urging Houpy to work with village staff and his sign designer to come to a solution that made all parties happy.

Houpy contended that many residents would remain unhappy no matter what sign ended up at the property. He also said he could opt to place a monument sign up to 8-feet tall on the property by right.

However, both he and village officials were concerned that a monument sign at the corner would block sightlines for those traveling eastbound on 26th Street and making right-hand turns onto southbound First Avenue. 

That concern was the primary reason commissioners and the village’s planning consultant, David Eisenbraun of Lakeside Consultants, favored approving a variance for a pole sign, although they wanted the pole to be as narrow as possible to maintain sightlines.

“I believe we would not want [a monument sign],” said commission Chairman Pat Ferriter.

Whatever the final solution ends up being, a new sign for the business has been in the works for many months.

Houpy first went before the commission last year after reportedly, without a permit, retrofitting the original non-conforming pole sign with a reader board sign. According to the zoning code, which was amended in 2021, reader board signs are not allowed for that property.

Houpy has had meetings with village officials about what might be allowed but had not submitted a drawing of his proposed sign to the village until recently, Scarpiniti said.