BLOOMINGTON — The City Council delayed voting Monday night on a liquor license for a new convenience store in west Bloomington after receiving a petition signed by nearly 100 people in opposition.
Democratic Precinct 12 Committeeman Nathan "Chiko" Russo said he collected the signatures over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
"We've got three or four places that sell liquor within a half-of-a-mile, so why do we need more liquor?" said Russo. "If you want to revitalize my neighborhood ... don't do it with vice; do it with something good."
Adjeet Singh, former owner of Hot Spot Grocery and Liquor, 1102 N. Hershey Road, wants to open Park Pantry at 906 S. Morris Ave., near Miller Park. To sell all types of packaged alcohol seven days a week at the convenience store, Singh applied for a PAS liquor license as Puma Enterprise Inc.
The council voted 7-0 to send the matter back to the three-member city liquor commission headed by Mayor Tari Renner for further review and to hear from residents who were unable to weigh in at a public hearing June 11.
Council members Jeff Crabill of Ward 8 and Jenn Carrillo of Ward 6 were absent Monday night.
After Ward 5 Alderwoman Joni Painter questioned Carrillo's absence because the new store is located in Carrillo's ward, Ward 7 Alderman Scott Black said Carrillo had an "unforeseen emergency," and that state law prevented her from participating via a telephone call.
During public comments, Surena Fish asked that the matter be brought back to the commission so that they could hear more public input. Fish said she and several other neighbors in the 900 block of West Wood Street did not receive a letter from the city notifying them of the hearing on the liquor license request.
"A lot of us didn't get to (provide) public input ... and we're the ones who live there," said Fish. "We do not need another liquor store. If they want to put in a food store convenience that would be great."
Renner said he is not certain whether the owners would proceed with a convenience store that did not sell liquor.
"There is only one convenience store in all of Bloomington-Normal that does not sell liquor, so this is not an unreasonable request, at the very least," said the mayor after the meeting.
Renner said he will convene a special meeting of the commission, most likely next week, to enable the council to vote on the license request at its July 22 meeting.
Last month, the liquor commission recommended approval, but imposed several conditions, including closing at 11 p.m., although the owner can request a change after the first six months. Liquor sales must be less than 50 percent of the store's total revenue; if requested by the commission, the owner must provide invoices to show compliance with that condition. The owner also must install outdoor security cameras and lighting.
It is typical to have new liquor licenses on the council's consent agenda, which comprises items to be adopted without discussion. But Ward 1 Alderman Jamie Mathy requested the item be pulled because he had questions about how the city will monitor those conditions, particularly the percentage of liquor sales.
Ward 9 Alderman Kim Bray also wants the commission to explore whether a condition banning the sale of single servings of alcohol could be added.
"Having the little alcohol bottles or single servings tend to be problematic, and the police will ... weigh in on that," said Renner.
Tim Piercy and several other residents spoke in favor of granting the new store a liquor license.
"They are planning on fixing up the place, so I think it will be good," said Piercy.