A new video gambling cafe is planned in Prospect Heights, but some members of the city council have concerns about the project.
Elsie’s Place, which is proposed for 99 E. Palatine Road, Unit B, would have five video gambling terminals, a liquor license and a small pre-made food menu including hot dogs, pizza and sandwiches, according to a plan presented to the council last week.
Owned by Minnesota-based Lieberman Cos., eight other Elsie’s have opened in Illinois since 2014, including suburban locations in Worth, Streamwood, Midlothian, Justice and Waukegan.
The proposal received a unanimous recommendation from the city’s zoning board, officials said, but a few aldermen took issue with the type of business and its location.
There already are nine businesses in Prospect Heights with video gambling licenses from the Illinois Gaming Board, and Alderman Patrick Ludvigsen said he thinks the area is too saturated.
“We have seven locations all on the east side of town, several that are very close to this one,” he said. “I think it is really too concentrated for this.”
Ludvigsen said he also doesn’t agree with Elsie’s business model, which calls for a 1,060-square-foot establishment with only a few tables other than the gambling area and no full kitchen.
“I’m not a fan of the cafes. I’m not against video gaming, I think it has been a great help to the city and to the state, but it has got to be used correctly,” Ludvigsen said. “All you’re really concerned about is the gaming, you’re not asking for a variance to open a restaurant.”
Hal Lieberman, president of Lieberman Cos., said the company hopes to have 25 percent of the business’ revenue come from food sales, with the rest from gambling. However, he admitted there are some locations where food sales are significantly lower.
“My concern is that when you open a video gaming place like this, you take away from the places that are real restaurants employing dozens of people,” Ludvigsen said.
“I don’t like these, I’m in the minority on the council,” he added. “But I just think you’re pulling it away from the ones who are really benefiting the community.”
Others, however, credited Lieberman Cos. for being upfront about the Elsie’s Place business model.
“I appreciate the honest presentation you gave,” said Alderman Scott Williamson. “This is very different from the presentations we were given by others who touted themselves as a restaurant.”
Alderwoman Lora Messer asked about parking and brought up concerns of residents who visit the nearby branch of the Indian Trails Public Library.
“There is a library right next door that brings in a lot of children. The alcohol involved here was somewhat of a concern for some of the tenants and residents in the area,” Messer said.
The city council is expected to vote on the Elsie’s Place proposal April 25