Benton City Council decides not to decide: No liquor license for Benton Bowl


Benton city commissioners let their silence speak for them Thursday night when it came time to decide whether or not to grant the Benton Bowl a license to sell beer and wine. No commissioner chose to make the motion to bring the issue up for a vote, so it died.

Benton Bowl owners say the death of the issue will mean the death of their business.

The council’s final regular meeting of the year was the third meeting at which the liquor license had been discussed. Benton Bowl co-owner Mike Fitzpatrick asked the council to consider the license last month, saying that the bowling alley’s business was down, and the owners would like to sell beer from a cooler at the snack bar. Fitzpatrick further noted that his real reason for wanting the license was to get video gambling machines. State law requires that businesses have a liquor license before they apply for the machines.

At a council meeting earlier this month, Benton Mayor Gary Kraft presented the commissioners with some information gathered on other bowling alleys in the area. Other area bowling alleys do serve beer, Kraft said, and have not reported problems with their liquor licenses.

At Thursday’s meeting, Kraft, who is also the city’s Liquor Commissioner, brought the issue back before the council. He asked for a motion that would create a new liquor license for the Benton Bowl. After some discussion, he proposed that the license be restricted to beer sales between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Fitzpatrick attended the meeting, as did Benton Bowl co-owner Dennis Odle.

Odle told commissioners that the goal of the liquor license is to attract a bar league and get more patrons in the door, and that the bowling alley may not ever get video gambling machines. This perceived change in the reason behind the need for the liquor license prompted some questions from commissioners.

Odle said he and Fitzpatrick and their wives bought the bowling alley 16 years ago.

“Our business is down 50 percent in 16 years,” Fitzpatrick told commissioners.

“We’re down to grasping at straws,” Odle added. “If we don’t get something in there, we’re gonna have to shut down.”

Kraft told commissioners the fact that other area bowling alleys had liquor licenses was a deciding factor for him.

“I think if it’s regulated, I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot,” he said. “If all the rest were dry, it would be a different story.”

Commissioner Ron Baumgarte then told the Benton Bowl’s owners that he wanted to congratulate them for running a business that his family had enjoyed, and that he understood how tough times were.

“I understand business being down 50 percent,” Baumgarte said. “I run a small business myself, and mine is off 60 percent.”

But, Baumgarte said, he would be voting no on the liquor license. “I want you to know it has nothing to do with you guys, it’s what’s inside of me.”

A vote would first require a motion and second from commissioners, though, and when Kraft called for that, the commissioners sat silent, and no motion ever came.

Fitzpatrick and Odle walked out of the meeting, with Odle telling commissioners the lack of action would kill the business.

“After May, don’t bother coming to the bowling alley,” Odle said. “It won’t be there.”

In other action, the Benton City Council:

  • Discussed changes to the city’s health insurance deductible. Finance Commissioner Dennis Miller told the council that the city’s health insurance policy is up for renewal on Feb. 1, and Blue Cross Blue Shield is increasing the premium by more than 31 percent, from $537,000 to $595,000, to keep the same coverage. Miller said the premium increase is largely due to claims over the past year. Increasing the deductible on the policy from $1,500 to $2,500 per year and changing the provider to Health Alliance would keep the premium closer to what it is currently. Commissioners agreed to think about the changes and take up the issue at their next meeting.
  • Discussed the renewal of agreement for the City of Benton to do street sweeping for the City of West City. The agreement runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 annually. Street Commissioner Don Wyant told the council that increases in diesel fuel and payroll costs necessitate an increase in the amount Benton charges West City for this service, from $83.26 per hour to $92.14 per hour. That cost breaks down to $56.25 per hour to run the street sweeper, and $35.89 per hour for the operator’s wages and insurance. Commissioners approved the agreement’s renewal with the rate increase, contingent on West City also approving the agreement.
  • City Attorney Mike Malkovich told commissioners that the city had received six notices of foreclosure in the past two weeks, more than he had received in that time period before. “I just mention it so that you know that the foreclosures are still pretty prevalent,” Malkovich said.

Benton City Council to discuss liquor license for Benton Bowl


City commissioners plan to discuss the creation of a new liquor license at their regular meeting on Dec. 27. The meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, was rescheduled from its regular day – the third Monday of the month – because this year that date fell on Christmas Eve.

Last month, Benton Bowl owner Mike Fitzpatrick asked the council for a liquor license. Fitzpatrick said he plans to sell beer only, from a cooler at his snack bar counter.

Fitzpatrick’s real goal in applying for the license, he says, is to install video gambling machines at his business. State law requires businesses that want to install in the machines to have a liquor license.

The Benton Bowl owner says his business needs the added revenue from the machines to survive.

Mayor Gary Kraft, who is also the city’s liquor comissioner, has said granting the license would require creation of a new license, and a new category of liquor license, because the bowling alley does not fit into current categories the city has. The commission has been studying the matter and checking with other municipalities to see how they handle bowling alley liquor licenses, and if they have created any problems.

The rest of the agenda for the final regular Benton City Council meeting of the year is short, with payment of routine bills and discussion of the 2013 Motor Fuel Tax fund program.

Extra work needed on Benton Industrial Park II project


An engineering mistake is adding additional work – and additional cost – to the road construction project underway at Benton Industrial Park II.

Benton Mayor Gary Kraft briefed the city council during its regular meeting Monday night on an engineering oversight that will require an additional $35,000 to relocated and encase some oil well lines during road construction at the project.

Officials broke ground in September on the $3 million undertaking, which includes the widening and resurfacing of portions of Central Street, Sugar Creek Road and Petroff Road, as well as an extension of Skylane Drive. Grants from the federal Economic Development Agency and Illinois Department of Transportation are providing about 90 percent of the funds for the project.

Kraft said the engineer who won the bid for the project overlooked the oil well lines, which have been in the ground since approximately 1980. Since they were there first, the project will have to pay for them to be moved, he said.

Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission officials are submitting a change order to the EDA to deal with the line relocation and encasement. City officials expressed hope that the EDA would come up with the additional funds.

If the EDA does not come through with the additional funds, city officials acknowledged they will have to come from somewhere.

“Without them [the oil well lines] being moved, the road can’t be completed,” said Benton City Attorney Tom Malkovich. Commissioners authorized Malkovich to negotiate and agreement between the company that owns the lines, Continental Resources Inc., and the city, so that work can progress.

In other action, the Benton City Council:

  • Approved wastewater treatment plant purchase orders of $3,371.58 for testing materials required by the EPA and $2,550 for balancer replacement.
  • Discussed donating two wastewater treatment plant vehicles to the city of Rosiclaire. The vehicles – a 1990 dump truck and a 1992 pick-up truck – are not in use. “They are salvage to us,” Kraft said. Rosiclaire officials had expressed a need for vehicles and said the city was willing to fix them if they were in disrepair. Benton officials are going to invite Rosiclaire officials to come look at the vehicles and decide if they want them. The matter was tabled until that visit takes place.
  • Approved a payment of $67,503.44 for Jeff Wiggs Excavating for water main replacement at Grand and Reed streets.
  • Authorized the city’s police department to spend a $570 holiday donation received from Fred’s Super Dollar on its Shop with a Cop program, which provides Christmas gifts for children in need.
  • Authorized the city’s fire department to spend $250 of its $570 holiday donation from Fred’s Super Dollar to purchase toys for the Toys for Tots program. The remaining $320 of the donation will also be donated to Toys for Tots as a cash donation.
  • Approved city payroll of $93,328.85.
  • Approved the annual tax levy ordinance.
  • Briefly discussed creating a liquor license for the Benton Bowl. Commissioners are researching how liquor licenses work at other area bowling alleys, and plan to take up the issue at the next regular council meeting on Dec. 27. (Click here to read our previous story about the liquor license request.)
  • Approved the rescheduling of the council’s next regular meeting to 7 p.m. Dec. 27, so that it does not conflict with Christmas Eve.
  • Continued the meeting until 8:30 a.m. Friday, when the council will pay city bills.




Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News