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updated: 6/4/2013 10:59 AM

Wheeling approves video gambling cafe

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The Wheeling village board on Monday approved on a 4-3 vote a controversial cafe that will serve beer and wine and have video gambling in the Fresh Farms Shopping Center at Milwaukee Avenue and Dundee Road.

The plan commission twice voted against the cafe, saying it did not meet the requirements of a special use, especially that it did not belong in a residential neighborhood, which is just south of the center.

The village board decided the restaurant should operate only from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, at least until it proved alcohol service did not cause a problem for the neighborhood.

The owners of the restaurant had said they needed to operate from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. But Gary Leff, CEO of Laredo Hospitality Ventures, offered Monday to cut the hours back. He especially said a 9 a.m. opening on school days could alleviate fears that people who have been drinking might drive by the nearby Walt Whitman Elementary School when children were arriving.

Leff said after the vote that his company would "work with the landlord and make the hours work."

The company officials also offered to limit customers to two drinks per hour and three total during a visit, saying alcohol was not a major part of their business plan, but the board rejected requiring those limits.

Village President Dean Argiris and Trustees Bill Hein, Mary Krueger and Ray Lang voted to allow the cafe. Trustees Robert Herr, David Vogel and Kenneth Brady voted against it.

Parking has also been a concern at the shopping center, and Nick Vittore, representing the center's owner, Stigos Asset Management, said the cafe would put less pressure on parking than other uses that could go into the center's empty stores.

Christine Dolpogol, who lives in the neighborhood, spoke against the cafe but said life has returned to normal now that Stigos has rented parking space for Fresh Farms employees, and the village has limited parking on the nearby streets and has given homeowners parking passes for their guests.

About 10 people stood up when Mary Papantos, an outspoken opponent of placing the cafe in that location, asked that those in the audience indicate their opposition that way.

Laredo received earlier approval for another cafe in Wheeling, has one ready to open in Hoffman Estates and plans one in Bartlett.

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