STERLING – A new restaurant could be coming to Pine Tree Plaza on East Lincolnway, but for now, the city has no available liquor licenses.
A Belvidere-based development group, led by Kevin Olson, Cindy Le and Paul McCaffrey, has targeted Sterling for a Lucky Dog’s Chicken and Ribs.
“They have several other restaurants and the company has approached the city about a liquor license,” said Mayor Skip Lee, who also serves as the liquor commissioner.
The company also has several Happy Wok restaurants and is in expansion mode.
“We just opened a Happy Wok with chicken in Machesney Park, we just had a liquor license approved in Mount Vernon, and we’re looking to go to Clinton, Carbondale and Chatham,” McCaffrey said.
The Sterling restaurant would have a bar with no less than 20 craft beer options and online gambling terminals, but the city liquor license is needed before Lucky Dog’s could apply for a state gambling license.
Last year, the city decided to freeze the liquor licenses needed by restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and sellers of packaged liquor at 32. That classification of licenses doesn’t apply to grocers, pharmacies or convenience stores.
The rapid expansion of online gambling in part drove the decision to evaluate liquor license requests on a case-by-case basis. The mayor said the city has no problem with the restaurant’s plans.
“I’ve never had a problem with gaming as part of the total entertainment experience, but I don’t like to see so many businesses where gambling is the main event,” Lee said.
The liquor commission will meet Friday to discuss amendments to the liquor code, but the mayor said the panel will address general policies.
“This meeting isn’t so much about the new restaurant specifically, it’s about general policy going forward,” Lee said.
The mayor said the restaurant could help jump-start the revitalization of the plaza under the new ownership of Kristopher Kyarsgaard, who also owns the rental storage business next door.
Dollar Tree now anchors the plaza at 4311 E. Lincolnway, which was built in 1998. Sally Beauty, GameStop, Springleaf/One Main Financial and Advance America are the other tenants. Staples closed its store there in 2015, followed in recent years by Payless, Fashion Bug, Petland and RadioShack
The developers aren’t too concerned about liquor license protocol. They said the semi-freeze procedure has become the norm.
“Most municipalities are handling their liquor licenses like this, so this really isn’t anything new for us,” McCaffrey said.
In addition to liquor and gambling licenses, the developers have a full kitchen and restrooms to build, and the inspections process to contend with. If all goes according to plan, they think they can hit a 3-month timeline for opening.
The Sterling Liquor Commission will meet at 2 p.m. Friday at City Hall, 212 Third Ave., to discuss amending the number of liquor licenses available from the city.
Go to sterling-il.gov or call City Hall at 815-632-6621 for more information.