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Bloomington grants LuLu's Pizza a liquor license and guarantee for a city gambling license

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BLOOMINGTON — The City Council has approved a liquor license for a proposed pizzeria along with an agreement that guarantees them a local video gambling license.

Mark Allen and Carl Muench, doing business as Carmala LLC, moved forward in October with plans to build LuLu's Pizza and Gaming on the now-vacant Mr. Quick's restaurant site at the northeast corner of Washington and Clinton streets.

The developers have since agreed to remove "gaming" from the restaurant's name.

The developers, who have similar establishments in other communities, including Decatur, "wanted assurances that they were going to receive a video gaming terminal license,"  said City Manager Tim Gleason.

The council voted 7-1 to approve both the development agreement and a restaurant liquor license allowing for the sale of wine and beer for consumption on the premises seven days a week. Ward 2 Alderwoman Donna Boelen cast the lone dissenting vote and Ward 6 Alderwoman Jenn Carrillo was absent Monday.

The development agreement does not provide the developer with any financial incentives.

The council in August amended its video gambling ordinance to impose a cap of no more than 60 licenses for such establishments.

There are six licenses still available with no applications pending with the city, but the state has 10 pending licenses for establishments within the city, said Bloomington City Clerk Leslie Yocum.

The state must first approve a video gambling license before the city can grant its local license. 

Two businesses with state-approved licenses have not come forward to request a city license, she added. 

The state will not grant a license for LuLu's until the establishment can be inspected, and it could take a year or more to complete construction.

To ensure the developers will receive a video gambling license, the council agreed to raise the cap to 61 if the remaining licenses have been issued to other establishments before the pizzeria is built.

Despite the agreement, the developers still must meet all the requirements for the city code on video gambling, including keeping its revenue from video gambling from exceeding 50 percent of its total revenue.

In October, the city's liquor commission recommended the pizzeria receive a liquor license, but with limited hours because it will have a room dedicated just for gambling.

In a memo to the council, the city staff noted that as a vacant lot the property had a market value of $75,660, and property taxes payable in 2019 were $2,122. Property taxes for the property will increase to approximately $7,000 per year after the development.

"The corner has been empty for a very long time so there are a lot of folks who do want to see something go into that location," said Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy, who resides in that neighborhood. 

"There are just as many people who are afraid that the design strays way too close to a gaming parlor," he added.

Mathy does not want the council to get in the habit of making similar exceptions.

"I want us to maintain that hard cap at 60 establishments as vigorously as we possibly can," Mathy said.

The City Council in 2013 amended the city's liquor ordinance to prohibit establishments whose primary focus is video gambling. Businesses that do have video gambling must receive more revenue from liquor and food sales than from video gambling.

Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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