FISHER — The Fisher Village Board adjourned its regular meeting to Aug. 19 to vote whether to amend its liquor ordinance to allow for a pour-only license.
The proposed amendment would allow Brandon Chandler to open a laundromat but also install video gaming machines in a walled-off portion of a building he owns on the main business district block that used to be part of Ingold’s grocery.
Most of the approximately 35 residents attending the meeting urged the board not to do so. Robin Kirk collected 130 signatures on a petition urging the same. She quit collecting when she said she was told by at least three people that she was “wasting her time, that it was done deal,” that trustees would vote for the new license no matter what.
She told the board she hoped that wasn’t true and that residents would be listened to and the board would do what was in Fisher’s best interests.
Karin Phelps questioned if some of the board members should recuse themselves from the vote because of what she considered a conflict of interest.
She said it is a matter of public record that Chandler has borrowed half a million dollars from the Fisher National Bank. She noted that Trustee Angie Seidelman is vice president of lending there and that Trustee Deb Estes is married to the president of the bank, and Mayor Mile Bayler is married to the vice president.
Bayler said in his time on the board he has never given a thought to voting on something with the bank in mind. He also told Kirk there is no preconceived outcome of the vote.
Chandler rebutted most of those who spoke against the laundromat/gaming parlor. He said people don’t have to patronize the place with their children and that the same people probably take their children into the restaurant in town that has gaming machines. He said that was hypocritical.
He also said there will be no more gaming machines in town than there were six months ago. Another restaurant that had five machines has closed.
But most of those who spoke said they believed the issue should be placed before residents in a referendum. John Harrison was one. He said the benefit of village revenue from the machines would be outweighed by the bad of the gambling targeting those who can least afford it, the ones who don’t have their own washers and driers.
And Jim McCoy said he was confused. He reminded the board he had approached it in 2016 about putting in a parlor out on Division Street (U.S. 136).
“I was told it would be a bad idea because the kids would pass it by on their way to school. Now the kids are going to be inside with the machines. I’m confused,” McCoy said.
He said it might make it better were Chandler to create two separate businesses.
And Beki Riley said she would like to see an official business plan from Chandler, not just pictorial representations of what it would look like.
“I don’t think this is family-friendly,” Riley said.
Chandler plans for the gaming machines to be partitioned off. On the other side, the laundromat, he would install two commercial washers and dryers and two regular washers and dryers. He is not sure what the hours would be. But an attendant/bartender would always be on site. Chandler has said he can’t make the operation work financially without the video gambling machines.
In a straw poll last month the majority of trustees favored creating a new pour-only license classification but would like to include a stipulation in the license that Chandler must continue to operate the laundromat portion of the facility in order to maintain the liquor license.
Seidelman was not at last week’s meeting. Trustee Dan Spaulding is deployed to Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, scheduled to return in September.