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updated: 10/8/2013 9:02 AM

Wheeling board split on third gambling cafe

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A divided Wheeling village board seems poised to approve a third site for a company whose cafes are based around video gambling, despite objections from neighbors.

Laredo Hospitality wants to open a third Wheeling cafe called Stellas's Place at Lexington Commons, 1081 Lake-Cook Road. The company has started construction on a cafe at 534 W. Dundee Road in the Lynn Plaza and also has board approval for one in the Fresh Farms shopping center on Dundee Road just west of Milwaukee Avenue.

The board approved a liquor license Monday for the Lexington Commons establishment on a 4-3 vote and agreed with the same 4-3 vote to send the cafe proposal back to the plan commission.

Village President Dean Argiris said the commission could take another look at the cafe with the reduced seating and a designated outdoor smoking area.

The plan commission had rejected a request to reduce the number of parking places Stella's required, and Gary Leff, Laredo's CEO, said the company could reduce the number of seats in the cafe so it would not need a parking variance. The cafe will still need a village board vote on a special use, which was recommended by the plan commission.

Trustee Bill Hein said after the meeting that he voted against the Lexington site because he believes a cafe with gambling would put other restaurants in the small shopping center at a disadvantage.

"We haven't seen the concept in action in our village yet," he said. "I am taking a holding attitude until we see the other two we approved. I did vote for the other two."

Hein said he discounted neighbors' complaints that Lexington is a residential area, saying the situation is similar to the way homes are situated around the Fresh Farms center. He did say he expects traffic to be bad with a Starbuck's scheduled to open in the center.

Trustees Robert Heer and David Vogel also voted "no" on the questions.

Leff said Laredo expects the Illinois Gaming Board will soon grant gambling licenses for three cafes the company has ready to open in other towns. He expects the three, including cafes in Hoffman Estates and Bartlett, to open within a few months.

The Lexington Commons association, representing 564 homeowners, opposes the Stella's being "75 feet from homes," said Julie Stein, citing potential traffic and noise issues.

"There are so many kids in the neighborhood," said Sharon Nagelberg, another of the three residents who spoke against the cafe.

A few more homeowners attended the meeting.

Also on Monday, the village board approved Spears Bourbon, Burgers & Beer, 723 N. Milwaukee Avenue, near the Westin Hotel. The owners had previously proposed a bar where customers could order in food from nearby restaurants, but now they will install a larger kitchen because the "pool of potential restaurant partners" seemed insufficient, Mark Janeck, director of community development, said in a report.

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