In a short-sighted move, Oak Lawn’s Board of Trustees on November 8th approved a video gaming liquor license for Rita’s Stop Inn, which could stifle future redevelopment of the area, according to one Trustee.
Rita’s Stop Inn, located at 9825 Southwest Highway, is a small bar located next door to the defunct and dilapidated Town of Lake property. The Town of Lake and the triangle of land it sits upon have long been seen as a prime location for redevelopment, though efforts to that end have been stymied time and again.
The Board of Trustees was voting on whether to approve a new liquor license for Rita’s, which would allow for video gaming at the establishment. Trustee Robert Streit (District 3) asked how approving the license would affect efforts to redevelop the area. The rest of the Board did not seem to understand the question.
Mayor Sandra Bury stated that the previous owner of Rita’s Stop Inn was now deceased, and “the children just recently took it over and I think they want to continue the family business.” Perhaps to explain why the liquor license was before the Board for approval, the Mayor, who serves as the Liquor Commissioner, also stated that “liquor licenses do not transfer.”
However, upon reviewing the Oak Lawn Village Code, this statement appears to be false. According to Village Code 3-3-11(b), entitled “Transfer of License”:
A license may, upon the licensee’s death, descend only to the licensee’s spouse or children
So, in fact, the children could continue to operate Rita’s Stop Inn with its existing license.
Furthermore, upon reviewing the minutes for the Liquor Advisory Board meeting on April 27th, 2016, the Mayor previously stated that “the people that are running it [Rita’s Stop Inn] will continue with their current liquor license which the State allows because they are the children of the former owners…”
So the Mayor obviously knew that the business was not applying for this new liquor license as a formality of transfer of ownership. The Class AV liquor license that was being applied for was specifically to allow video gaming at the establishment, as discussed at the October 26th Liquor Advisory Board meeting.
Video gaming has generally been a boon to local businesses. The gaming machines provide a source of revenue that requires very little investment or ongoing costs. Some establishments make more money on video gaming than they do on sales.
Trustee Streit’s question posed to the Board was how would approving this new license affect the possibility of future redevelopment of the whole area. The logical answer would be that redevelopment would be less likely. If a dive bar, described by some as a blight in its own right, becomes more profitable, it is likely to increase in value. This would make it less attractive to potential developers, who prefer to buy cheap and sell high.
Trustee Tim Desmond (District 1), who joined 3 other Trustees to approve the license in a 4-1 vote said, “Maybe this will help their business. I assume it will.”
Yes, it probably will help their business. But by doing so, it may doom the rest of the area to perpetual blight. A short-sighted decision that could have ramifications for years, if not decades to come.