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Council right to turn down liquor licenses

Members of the Dixon City Council upheld good public policy by denying liquor licenses to gas stations that wanted to serve alcoholic drinks. Owners whose real goal is to install video gambling terminals have another recourse and should take it.

Published: Friday, May 9, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, June 9, 2014 1:41 p.m. CDT

The Dixon City Council made the right choice this week regarding a request to allow gas station owners to be granted licenses to serve alcohol to the public.

Council members unanimously said no.

Good for them.

The issue is a bit convoluted, as the gas station owners' desire to possess liquor licenses was merely a means to an end. They then would have qualified with the state to install and operate lucrative video gambling terminals.

Mayor Jim Burke set the tone by calling it "very poor public policy" to allow gas stations the requisite licenses to serve alcohol.

Current public policy has been to increase the separation between drivers and intoxicating liquor. Drunken driving, after all, is a major contributor to traffic injuries and deaths.

By allowing gas stations to serve alcoholic drinks, the distance between drivers and alcohol would shorten to a matter of feet, as well as the distance between those soon-to-be-tipsy drivers and their awaiting vehicles.

"Fill 'er up" might have suddenly taken on a whole new connotation.

The potential increase in vehicular mayhem, thankfully, was thwarted by the council's decision.

Commissioner David Blackburn even offered some helpful advice to gas station owners.

State statute allows video gambling terminals in places such as bars, restaurants, truck stops, and businesses with a liquor license and a pour license – the kind of license sought by the gas station owners.

A better strategy, Blackburn said, would be for the owners to approach the Illinois General Assembly directly to see whether the gaming statute could be amended to allow for video gambling terminals in plain old gas stations.

After all, many gas stations already have Illinois Lottery terminals where people can buy their fill of tickets, ranging from Pick Three and Pick Four to Mega Millions and Powerball.

It's not that much of a stretch to imagine a video gambling terminal also set up on the premises.

In fact, a good argument could be made that motorists at gas stations would be appropriate customers of video gambling, as the proceeds go toward paying off bonds the state sold to pay for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects used by those very motorists.

But linking the proposal to serving alcoholic drinks just isn't a good idea.

As Blackburn observed, "I don't know that we need to change local ordinances to turn gas stations into places that distribute alcohol."

Well said, Commissioner.

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