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The Fayette County Board last Thursday rejected a couple’s request for a liquor license for a steak house they plan to operate on Vandalia Lake.
But later, in explaining why they voted against the request, some board members said they might vote differently if the request comes before them again.
After several people expressed how that business would affect them, the board voted 10-4 to not approve a request from Steve and Latisha Mabry for Class A license.
The Mabrys plan to renovate a home on Ill. Route 185, on the east side of the highway bridge going over the lake.
Knowing that residents of that area were present to voice their opinion on the issue, County Board Chairman Steve Knebel started discussion on it by having the Mabrys explain their plans.
“We plan to have a steak house, whether we get the liquor license or not,” Latisha Mabry said.
The Mabrys initially requested both A and B liquor licenses, but Latisha Mabry said that because she and her husband knew of people’s concerns, they “would be more than happy” to withdraw their request for a B license, which allows for package liquor sales.
Later in Thursday’s meeting, several board members said that wording for a Class A license is vague in a manner that would allow the Mabrys to sell liquor for off-premises consumption.
And that, they said, was their main reason for voting against the request.
Acknowledging that she was a spokesperson for a group of people owning property near the new restaurant, Teena Yarbrough said that they have several concerns.
One concern, Yarbrough said, is that “it’s a commercial business in the middle of a residential area.”
When she said that city officials maintain that that area is zoned residentially, Knebel said the city has control only on those lakeside properties that it owns and leases.
Knebel said that the only city ordinance that would apply in this instance would be one governing boat docks, and the Mabrys don’t plan to have a dock, he said.
“The Shrine Club is the same situation,” Knebel said. “They do not have a boat dock … cannot have a boat dock.”
As that issue was repeatedly discussed, Fayette County State’s Attorney Joshua Morrison said that Knebel was correct in his assessment, adding that the city can control property along the lake that it owns and leases.
“The main concern,” Yarbrough said, “is the traffic and liquor.”
She said that the Mabrys will be sharing a driveway with others. “And we maintain it,” she said.
Yarbrough said that she and other property owners are concerned about how regular use of that driveway by garbage and delivery trucks will be hard on it.
“Plus, we have safety concerns,” she said, referring to the location of the Mabrys’ property along Route 185 at the lake.
Latisha Mabry said that they have had several inspections by Illinois Department of Transportation and IDOT personnel expressed no issues with either the driveway or the location of the restaurant at that location on Ill. Route 185.
Steve Mabry said, “I would have no problem maintaining it (the driveway).”
Knebel said, “We cannot say anything about the business. Unfortunately, there are people who live around there. I don’t think that traffic is going to be that big of an issue.
“I understand your concerns … but I don’t feel we’re looking at this the way we should be looking at it,” he said.
Knebel said he believes that the Mabrys’ plan to open a nice restaurant on the lake is “a wonderful thing.
“We’re always saying that we need tax money and jobs,” he said, stating the opinion that he feels the restaurant will attract people from outside the area.
“As far as the license, it could enhance the business, so it’s more successful,” Knebel said.
Yarbrough also said residents and property owners of the area believe that the Mabrys haven’t yet met all code requirements, and that they feel a license should not be issued until they do.
Fayette County Health Department Administrator Rhonda Andrews said that her department has approved the couple’s plans, and Knebel added that the wording in county regulations stipulate that failure to comply with codes will void the license.
Terry Yarbrough said he is concerned about the sale of liquor at the business, and that the presence of the business will lower the value of his property.
“There are going to be people in and out of there in boats … drinking,” he said. “Somebody’s going to have to patrol that. Maybe the county should have a police officer out there in a boat.”
Knebel said that as a former police officer, he knows that officers “can’t be everywhere at once..
“The city has other options (for enforcement of laws at the lake) … but just doesn’t seem to go for it,” he said.
Latisha Mabry said that she and her husband plan to have a respectable business for dining.
“This is not a (bar),” she said. “We will close at 9 o’clock every night.
“We want a nice, fine dining place, and to serve a glass of wine would be nice,” Mabry said.
“We want it nice and tiny,” she said.
As Teena Yarbrough again contended that the business would be in the middle of a residential area, Knebel again said, “We have no control on that. It’s their property, they do want they want with it.
“We’re here to help somebody prosper as a business, or not. Do I think a liquor license would help? I do.”
The issue at hand, he said, was the liquor license. Other matters were not pertinent for consideration by the board.
“The traffic’s still going to be there” even if the Mabrys can’t sell liquor, Knebel said.
Knebel, Jeff Beckman, Wade Wilhour and Glenn Gurtner voted for the issuance of the license. Voting against it were Glen “Whitey” Daniels, Darrell Schaal, Joe Kelly, Troy Pattillo, Jean Finley, Loy Staff, John Daniels Jr., Dean Bernhardt, John Blythe and Keith Cole.
Later, as the board was ready to adjourn, Knebel brought up the issue again.
“I’m not very happy the way this went down tonight,” he said.
“I think we looked at the wrong issue. I think several of us put personal feeling in it – that’s not our job.
“It’s our job to take care of the county, take care of the financial (matters) and listen to the voters,” he said.
Staff said he voted against the license because the “ordinance is so vague,” and that there should be work done on revising it.
Pattillo said he received “a lot of phone calls not to vote for it, and not one to vote for it.”
John Daniels Jr. said, “I had more complaints against it than for it.”
In response, Knebel said, “Controversy is always going to bring people against it. They had an open house to show us (what they are going to do), and I was hoping everyone (on the board) would take advantage of it.”
Pattillo said that if there were people in favor of the license issuance, “They should have got on the ball.”
Gurtner said that he did make an effort to talk to people about it, “and everybody was in favor of it.”
Beckman said that “basic human rights” allow people to use their property as they wish. “All that we did tonight was deny those people their rights.”
“Whitey” Daniels said that the people around the business will be affected by the business.
“All those people (speaking against the license issuance) got rights, too,” Daniels said. Knebel responded, “They’re still getting them stepped on.”
Daniels said that the neighbors “wanted their rights protected, and I think we protected them.
“I believe the right thing happened tonight,” he said.
In response to Daniels’ comments, Beckman said, “There are people who are impacted by what people do every day.
“If they don’t meet the criteria, we should deny (the application),” Beckman said, explaining that the Mabrys do meet all criteria.
Jean Finley said that had the Mabrys “been off the road farther or in a different place, I probably would have voted for it.”
Knebel pointed out that the board approved a liquor license for a business in the middle of St. James, a heavy residential area.
And while Daniels said he feels the board made the right decision on Thursday, he might vote differently if the issue comes back before the board.
“If it comes back to the board, I’d probably vote for it,” Daniels said, after the matter of the wording of the license ordinance surfaced. As he said that, several other board members either agreed verbally or nodded their head in agreement.
Also at the meeting:
• The board approved a two-year contract between the county highway department and Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 1197.
Through the agreement, members of the union working for the highway department will receive a 1-percent pay raise in the first year, retroactive to Dec. 1 of last year, and a 2-percent increase in the second year.
The union employees agreed to pay $11 toward insurance in the first year and an additional $25 in the second year.
Wilhour, chairman of the personnel and insurance committee, presented the contract approval recommendation.
“Here’s the fact I’ve come to understand,” Wilhour said. “Going to arbitration is going to cost the county a lot of money … and we’re not going to gain anything in arbitration.
“We approve budgets – that’s how we control expenditures,” he said.
Knebel agreed with Wilhour.
“This wasn’t the answer we were looking for, but going to arbitration was going to cost us a lot more money than that (increases),” he said.
• The board approved the reappointment of Allen Magnus as a trustee on the St. Peter Fire Protection District Board of Trustees.
The board also approved the reappointment of David Wayne Petty as a trustee on the Tri-County Fire Protection Board of Trustees.
They will serve three-year terms that run through the first Monday in May 2016.
• The board approved three reappointments to the West Loudon Drainage District Board: Gene Ireland for a one-year term; Clyde Austin for a two-year term; and Gilbert Steven Wright for a three-year term.
• The board rejected a proposal for a contract that would have the county paying $300 for an ASCAP licensing contract for music playing on the phone system when callers are on hold. Previously, the county has received the service free of charge.
“I think we can listen to dead air instead of paying $300 or something like that,” Knebel said.