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.
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