A tie vote meant that for the second time in three months, the Fayette County Board declined to grant a liquor license to a couple planning to open a restaurant on Vandalia Lake.
After a lengthy discussion on Tuesday evening, the board voted 7-7 on the license application filed by Steve “Luke” and Latisha Mabry.
Board Chairman Steve Knebel, Vice Chairman Jeff Beckman, Darrell Schaal, Glenn Gurtner, Wade Wilhour, Keith Cole and Loy Staff voted for the issuance of the license, and Troy Pattillo, Jean Finley, John Daniels Jr., Glen “Whitey” Daniels, Dean Bernhardt, John Blythe and Joe Kelly voted against it.
The board’s Tuesday vote comes two months after it voted 10-4 to deny the Mabrys’ liquor license application and one month after it revised its liquor ordinance to clarify the wording for licenses issued for on-site consumption of alcohol.
The vote also comes one week after the Vandalia City Council voted to enforce the city ordinance governing residential zoning in the area where the Mabrys plan to open The Lake House, on Ill. Route 185 at the bridge over Vandalia Lake.
But, Knebel said, the city’s vote, or any other action taken by the city, has nothing to do with the application for a county liquor license.
“It’s immaterial to this board what the city does,” Knebel said.a
“They (the Mabrys) have met all requirements … for the issuance of a liquor license,” he said. “We should not pick and choose who we give a liquor license to,” Knebel said, adding that the Mabrys have yet to receive any notification from the city regarding the allegation that they will violate a city ordinance by operating their business at that location.
“There’s been a lot of talk, but nothing has happened,” he said.
Two of the board members, John Daniels Jr. and Pattillo, questioned whether it was appropriate to even vote on a license, due to the fact that the business has not yet opened.
“We don’t know if they’re going to have a restaurant,” Daniels said.
Pattillo made a similar comment, later in the meeting asking whether the board has ever issued a license prior to the opening of an applicant’s business.
“Absolutely,” Knebel said, explaining that the board had issued a license prior to the opening of Summer Breeze Wine House in St. James.
“Whitey” Daniels, who in April said that he would probably vote for the issuance of a license to the Mabrys if it came up again, repeated his April contention that the board needs to consider those living in the area of the planned restaurant.
“I think they should have some rights,” Daniels said.
To that point, Knebel said, “We’re not preventing the business.”
Knebel said that while people living near the restaurant may not like it, property owners can do what they want with their land, as long as it’s legal.
He said that a logging company started up behind his home. “I had no say,” he said.
“It is very noisy. Am I living with it? Yes, because I have to.”
“Some things in life you can’t do anything about,” Knebel said.
Beckman said he agreed with Knebel.
“We approved one (liquor license) last month at a special meeting, and we approved one tonight (for Vandalia Shrine Club),” Beckman said.
“You can’t pick and choose who gets what and who doesn’t. We have to go by laws and regulations, and I think it’s our duty to uphold that,” he said.
“We’ve jumped through the hoop of changing the ordinance. They (Mabrys) meet the criteria.”
In saying that he would vote for the issuance of the license, Wilhour cited the growing intrusion of government into people’s lives, and the rights of property owners.
“This is just putting another regulation on a business. I’m going to err on the side of freedom,” Wilhour said.
Pattillo said, “We’re in a very difficult situation, weighing the property rights for one versus the property rights of another.”
Latisha Mabry told the board that “there is no factual or legal basis to deny this license.”
A little later, she told board members that if she and her husband aren’t given a license, customers will have the right to bring their own liquor to the residence, which means they have no control on how much the customers drink.
Several in the large crowd, both supporters and opponents of the license application, spoke during the discussion, with Jeff Kershaw being the most vocal.
Kershaw claimed that the possibility of traffic accidents in that area could increase, both because of what he says is a narrow driveway and a nearby curve in the highway.
When Knebel asked how location is different from that of the Vandalia Lake marina, saying that the highway curve near the marina is more blind, Kershaw said, “There’s no liquor at the marina,” which drew an outburst of laughs from many in the crowd.
Knebel said, “DOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) says there’s no problem.”
“Remember that when there’s a fatality,” Kershaw said, with Knebel responding with, “That’s pretty bad to say.”
Knebel, a retired Illinois State Police officer, said that accidents happen all over.
Teena Yarbrough, who served as the spokesperson for the group of opponents in April, said, “It seems like the county would want to wait” to see what happens as a result of the city council voting to enforce its zoning ordinance at that location.
“That just seems to make sense to me,” Yarbrough said.
“The city’s gonna do what it’s gonna do,” Knebel said, repeating that action taken by the city has nothing to do with the liquor license application.
Both Knebel and Fayette County State’s Attorney Joshua Morrison told opponents that if the city is able to enforce its zoning ordinance or the restaurant does not open for any other reason, the Mabrys’ liquor license is voided.
Just prior to the vote, Yarbrough said, “We’re not against this restaurant, we’re got against alcohol. We’re just against this location.”
Prior to voting, Bernhardt said he would not vote for the license issuance due to the pending issue with the city. “If the city OK’s it, I will vote for it.”
After the tie vote, Knebel looked at the Mabrys and said, “The assumption is it will pass when it (The Lake House) opens, (based) on Mr. Bernhardt’s comments.