Fulton council OKs liquor license increase, mayor will veto

FULTON – Mayor Mike Ottens is planning to veto a council-approved ordinance that would increase the number of liquor licenses in Fulton.

The Fulton City Council on Jan. 28 voted 4-2 to approve an ordinance amending the number of Class A liquor licenses from five to six, with a review in a year. The total number of liquor licenses would increase to 14. Aldermen Eugene Field, Barb Mask, Dan Nederhoff and Sue Van Kampen voted in favor of the ordinance change. Aldermen Margaret Crosthwaite and Keith King voted against the ordinance change. Aldermen Paul Banker and Mike Van Zuiden were absent.

Mask had proposed the city look at adding one Class A liquor license. She said Savanna, Illinois has 52 gaming machines and Rock Falls has 106 gaming machines compared to Fulton’s 30 gaming machines. She suggested the council grant one additional Class A liquor license and evaluate it at the end of the year.

“Rather than just put a blanket no on this, could we consider increasing that license by one and then evaluate it at the end of the year rather than saying we don’t want any more,” Mask said.

Field, who voted in favor of increasing the number of Class A liquor licenses from five to six, said he believes the city has enough machines in town.

“I don’t think it’s really fair to the people that are in the business,” Field said. “I think we should protect them. And I think that if we did increase it one I don’t know who would get that.”

Crosthwaite believes the city has enough gaming machines in Fulton. She believes the city, by implementing more machines, is asking for trouble in Fulton.

Paula Ensinger, of Johnny’s Tap, believes gaming dens are not great additions to the community. She cited their low sales tax base, stating they sell beer for a dollar and give away soft drinks and snacks. She said businesses in town, including Johnny’s Tap, cannot compete with $1 beers and free giveaways.

“Gaming dens are not a good addition to our city,” Ensinger said. “They take business away from our businesses. They don’t contribute to our local festivals and organizations and they bring crime into our city. I’m asking you to support our local businesses and deny any more liquor licenses for gaming establishments.”

Ottens encouraged the City Council to look at the impact of gaming dens on Fulton law enforcement and drug trafficking.

“I think it’s been stated very well that we’re fighting a drug epidemic,” Ottens said. “We’ve spent a lot of money on a police dog, K-9, to help us do that... I think that increasing the number of liquor licenses for a “gaming den” is counterproductive to keeping our community safe. It just gives another place for those with ill intent in the drug trade to conduct their business.”

Nederhoff questioned if the city had valid, ongoing proof of an increase in crime to make a judgement. He added he sometimes struggles with protectionism versus free markets.

Ottens, after the 4-2 vote, indicated he will veto the vote to pass the ordinance.

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