Thursday, April 5, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: The Maywood strip mall where Ramzey Fakhouri wants to open a vide gaming bistro. | Google Earth
During the public comment period of an April 3 regular meeting, Ramzey Fakhouri stood before the Maywood Board of Trustees to plead his case for why board members should lift a ban on Class M liquor licenses they approved back in December 2016.
Fakhouri, who owns the strip mall at 608-22 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood, said that he wants to open a deli inside of the shuttered Subway restaurant within the mall. In addition to sandwiches made with premium Boar’s Head deli meet, the restaurant would also feature beer, wine and video gaming.
Fakhouri said that the video gaming concept is essential to the financial feasibility of his proposed restaurant. The revenue from gaming, he said, would help offset his expenses.
But the Class M liquor license and the video gaming concept go hand-in-hand. You can’t have gaming without the license.
That means that a ban on Class M licenses, which are specifically issued to video gaming cafe/bistro owners looking to sell alcohol in their establishments, is effectively a ban on the bistros themselves.
Fakhouri described the video gaming concept as something of a saving grace for his business, which he said has been depressed recently by high taxes.
“Before I bought [the strip mall], it had almost nine different owners because of the taxes,” Fakhouri said. “They’ve been very high and people have been selling the property back and forth. I’m trying to serve this community.”
Fakhouri said that he pays “about $95,000 a year in taxes” and has recently had to lower rents in order to keep tenants who are looking to move out of Maywood.
“I’ve been struggling, tenants have been moving out,” he said. “For instance, I have to reduce rent for H&R Block [a tenant inside of the 5th Ave. strip mall] to make sure they don’t leave. They want to leave because of high taxes …. I work just to pay taxes, so I need something to help me out just to keep surviving.”
The Subway once inside of the strip mall that is now closed was “unable to sustain and pay” bills like rent and payroll, Fakhouri’s nephew said during the April 3 meeting.
On Dec. 20, 2016, the Maywood board unanimously approved an ordinance amending a section of the village code to prohibit the issuance of any new Class M liquor licenses.
The board instituted the ban after it had already approved the issuance of a Class M liquor license to Lacey’s Place, a video gaming establishment at 611 W. Roosevelt Rd., in March 2016.
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That issuance, however, drew the ire of many residents, who were against video gaming establishments in Maywood because of numerous public safety and quality of life concerns. Trustees in support of granting Lacey’s the license, however, said that those concerns were overblown and not consistent with the reality.
Nonetheless, in June 2016, a group of residents created an online petition expressing their opposition to video gaming that garnered more than 100 signatures. The next month, the board voted 4-2 to put the issue on the ballot as a nonbinding advisory referendum.
And in the Nov. 8, 2016 election, residents voted 56 percent to 44 percent in favor of banning the Class M licenses. Trustees authorized an official ban following the referendum measure in large part because they wanted to follow the wishes of voters.
So far, Lacey’s place is the only video gaming establishment in Maywood. On April 3, Fakhouri said that the village is missing out on a lucrative revenue stream.
“Why not have a couple more licenses in the neighborhood? I don’t see the harm,” he said. “Melrose Park alone has 26 licenses and I wonder why Maywood only has one. There is money to be made. There’s a lot of money to be generated and that’s going to help the community.”
In response, Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet said that the board has the power to lift the ban if it wants, but that Fakhouri would first need to submit an application to the planning and zoning commission through the village’s community development office.
After which, the possibility of lifting the ban may come up for board discussion, and public dialogue, once again.
“I do like the idea that you’re continuing to invest in Maywood,” Norfleet told Fakhouri.
The village manager added that, roughly a year into its operation, the fears expressed by many residents about Lacey’s Place have not materialized, which could factor into whether or not the board lifts the ban and allows another video gaming establishment to setup shop.
“To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an issue,” Norfleet said of Lacey’s Place. VFP
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