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Elburn considers gambling café in town

ELBURN – The village of Elburn is considering whether to allow a gambling café to establish itself in town.

Both Village President Dave Anderson and Building Superintendent Tom Brennan have been contacted by several individuals, one of which is the owner of the strip mall on the south side of Route 38 and east of Route 47. The other is the business owner who is interested in opening one of these cafes where the fish market had been.

Village Administrator John Nevenhoven and Brennan have done some research on several of these types of places, including one named Stella’s that recently opened in Oswego.

“[The menu] is a little larger menu than the Corner Grind; the same style. It looks really nice – upscale and legitimate,” he said. “But, we have no idea what they’re [these individuals] planning or what they want to propose.”

Trustee Pat Schuberg suggested that Nevenhoven and Brennan talk to someone in South Elgin, where there is a similar business on Randall Road called Penny’s Place. Penny’s Place is one of nearly 60 locations that owners Blackhawk Restaurant Group have opened in northern Illinois that are named either Penny’s or Betty’s.

Schuberg described these businesses as places where “everyday women,” who may not feel comfortable going to a bar or casino, can during the day, go have lunch alone or meet some friends and play some video poker.

Trustee Bill Grabarek said that the establishments are, indeed, more female-oriented, places where (mostly) women can have lunch and a glass of wine while they play video poker.

However, therein lies the rub. In order to obtain a gambling license in the state of Illinois, the business must also have a liquor license.

“It is essentially another bar,” Trustee John Krukoff said. “I have trepidations about adding another bar in town.”

Trustee Dave Gualdoni wondered if a business could have a liquor license and not serve liquor.

According to Brennan, there is currently no language in the zoning code that would allow such a business – and, if the village was interested, it would have to add that language to its current code.

He likened it to when internet cafes became popular, and municipalities did not have the zoning to include these new businesses. It would just be a matter of updating the codes to reflect current reality.

Several of the trustees seemed open to the idea, such as Grabarek.

“Could we tell them that, ‘We would be open to it, depending on your ability to get a liquor license and a license for gambling?’” he asked.

Anderson added the individuals who approached the village are acting as if their proposed business model was “on the front burner and the burner was on fire.”

“They want it done yesterday,” he said.

Trustee Jeff Walker said that staff should “see what they’ve got to say.”

The two individuals who are proposing the Elburn location are Rocky Bhalla and Alex Alam, said Brennan on Oct. 4. They are the sole owners of the business.

He said they describe what they are looking to do at the Elburn location as an “upscale wine bar.” It would be named Bella’s Bistro, and would serve a variety of wine and small plate food, such as cheeses and meats.

This would not be their first gambling café, as they have partnerships with many truck stop locations; however, this would be the first one in this area, said Brennan.

Brennan told the board he would be doing more research and talking to people in other towns where these businesses were located.

“We’re gathering facts,” he said.

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