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By DAVE HINTON
Rantoul Press editor
Village trustee Roger Jones told a Fisher couple who hoped to apply for a vacant Class A liquor license in Rantoul that the village board’s policy has been to let the market determine how many licenses the village will have on the books.
Because of that, the number of Class A liquor licenses is now down to seven.
The village board last week voted 5-0 to reduce the number of Class A licenses by one after Hot Headz Bar & Grill, 108 N. Garrard St., closed. Trustee Jennifer Fox was absent.
Sam and Kelly Steenbergen had hoped to open the business as a sports bar, and Sam Steenbergen urged the village board to delay a decision until the couple could make formal application for a liquor license.
The market dictates
Jones explained the board’s philosophy:
“I was told it has been the practice from previous boards that we allow the market to determine the need for business’ existence,” Jones said. “The location there obviously has had a past behind it.”
The Liquor Advisory Committee had recommended in January that the number of licenses be reduced. Mayor Neal Williams said the problem with the location has not been unruly behavior; rather, the on-again, off-again nature of the business.
“That bar has been opened and closed and opened and closed a number of times,” Williams said last week. “There doesn’t seem to be any stability. We’re talking, ‘Is this good for downtown Rantoul?’”
Kelly Steenbergen said she and her husband had not formally applied for a liquor license because they had to take classes to receive their food certification from Public Health, and the business must be inspected.
Steenbergen makes request
Her husband urged the board last Tuesday to wait and give them a chance.
“I ask you to maybe put off on reducing the liquor licenses,” he said. “We’re trying to open a family business, ... trying to open a safe, respectable bar and grill where people can come and watch sporting events.”
He said the business would result in the creation of jobs.
“I consider Fisher a subdivision of Rantoul because we do a lot of daily living in Rantoul,” Steenbergen said. “This is where we come to purchase groceries and everything else, so I consider myself part of the Rantoul community.
“I know there’s kind of a bad taste in the board’s mouth and the community’s mouth of some of the bars that have been in, in the past. There’s been some trouble in them. That’s not the kind of place I’m going to run. We just ask the board to give us a chance to ... open a viable business and to bring some tax dollars to Rantoul.”
Steenbergen said he and his family had already invested time and money into the business. They had entered into a lease for the property before realizing the board was considering cutting back the number of Class A licenses.
Prior to the vote, Jones told the couple that he appreciates anyone who wants to open a business in Rantoul.
“Don’t look at this vote as a judgment by this board that we’re not trying to encourage businesses to locate in downtown Rantoul,” Jones said.
“It’s my hope that we can move in a different direction as a board and as a community with that location.”
Jones encouraged the Steenbergens to look at other liquor licenses that are available.
For instance, the village has an R-3 license open for restaurants.
“The downtown, I can easily see a market downtown for restaurants,” Jones said.