LICENSING LIQUOR: Village board to decide whether community has too many Class A licenses

By DAVE HINTON
Rantoul Press editor


Rantoul Village Board trustees were to decide at Tuesday’s monthly meeting whether eight is too much.

The board is scheduled to consider a Liquor Advisory Committee recommendation to reduce from eight to seven the number of Class A liquor licenses.

The license became available when Hot Headz Bar & Grill, 108 N. Garrard St., closed earlier this year.

It didn’t take long for another group to step forward to run the bar.

Kevin Dockham of Fisher, who manages the building for owner Hobbs Vending, and Kelly Steenbergen addressed the village board at the Feb. 5 study session.

Steenbergen and her husband, Sam, also of Fisher, would run the bar with help from their family.

Mayor Neal Williams said the Liquor Advisory Committee, which met in January, had recommended the number of Class A licenses (alcoholic liquor for consumption on or off the premises) be reduced. He said the village perhaps has too many Class A licenses.

“That bar has been opened and closed and opened and closed a number of times,” Williams said Wednesday. “There doesn’t seem to be any stability. We’re talking,

‘Is this good for downtown Rantoul?’

“I know some of the other businesses in that area had some concerns about the upkeep of the area, trash and things like that.”

Hot Headz opened in the summer of 2011.

Williams said Hot Headz did not pose any more law enforcement problems than any other local bar, a statement that was backed by Police Chief Paul Farber.

‘I think they kept pretty good control of things,” Farber said of Hot Headz management.

Williams said the village wants to be mindful of other downtown businesses.

“We have to be cognizant of the other businesses in that area as well,” Williams said. “We have some longstanding businesses in downtown.”

Dockham said he believes it is important to keep businesses such as the bar open.

“I believe it will be fundamental for the city in the long run to keep the downtown going,” he said.

Located directly south of the bar is the Mathews Business Centre building, an office building that the village closed last summer because of structural concerns. Directly north of the bar is a vacant lot.

Kelly Steenbergen said she and her husband hope to open a sports-themed bar at that location, named Sammers Bar and Grill.

She said it would occasionally feature country music bands and would be “a good place to go to get a sandwich, someplace to get breakfast.

“We want to make sure it’s a clean bar, keep it respectable, no riff raff,” a place to go to watch sporting events on television.
“We’ve already invested money in this, and we want to make sure it’s a good place for people to go.”

Dockham said he has been told that the building has been used for a bar since the early 1900s.

Village board member Hank Gamel, who is also a member of the Liquor Advisory Committee, said there was no proposal from the Steenbergens for a liquor license at the committee meeting.

Kelly Steenbergen said they are waiting on their food certification and will take classes in mid-February and must go through the Public Health Department. She said the establishment must be inspected, a process that takes from 30-45 days. She said they are in the process of applying for a liquor license.

Sam Steenbergen said after the meeting that they would run a respectable business.

“We want to run a place to get a sandwich, drink a beer and watch sports,” he said. “If we have a band maybe it will be in the line of country music or classic ‘50s rock.

“As far as a dance club, that’s not what I’m in it for. It’s a place to meet friends and relax and to talk and watch sporting events. We’re looking to clean that up.”

Steenbergen said he would like to meet with the mayor ahead of the meeting so he can “have a better view of what we would like to do.”

“It’s going to be a family-run business. We’re going to have some of my older kids (help operate the business).”

He said his son has been a cook for several years, and his daughter “has worked at various places as far as bartending and food services.”

The bar would also offer a ride service for people who aren’t sober enough to be driving.

“When they come to the bar we want to make sure people ... drink responsibly and act appropriately, and if someone needs a ride home I’m going to offer that ride (and won’t charge for it,)” he said.

“I think that’s part of what it’s about, taking responsibility. When you do have an establishment (it’s important to make )sure people don’t overdo and know the signs of that and have a ride service in place.”

Williams said he doesn’t know how the village board will vote on the issue.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com

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