By Bob Balgemann


The first video gaming license was issued in the city back in 2010, with a lot happening since then.

At one point there were 21 active licenses at businesses in the city limits.

A new cap of 30 was set in 2018.

Then the cap was raised once again, to 40, in a 5-4 city council vote on Nov. 23, 2019. Support came from aldermen Marsha Freeman, Mike McGee, Tom Porter, Dan Snow and Daniel Arevalo. Dissenting were aldermen Matt Fleury, Wendy Frank, Clayton Stevens and Ric Brereton. Alderman Tom Ratcliffe was absent.

The availability of another 10 licenses initially meant very little due to state restrictions on businesses imposed by the state, following the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. Many of the establishments with video games were closed at differing times between then and 2021.

Those restrictions have been eased and, on March 1, city council voted 10-0 to approve special use permits for commercial indoor entertainment that allowed video gaming machines. Those addresses were 2001 N. State St., 1052 Belvidere Road, 2038 N. State, 171 S. Appleton Road, 600 Logan Ave. and 1474 N. State.

While that action was taken, a list kept by the city’s planning department of all establishments with such machines shows those six new locations are not in operation at this time.

Two more proposed sites of establishments with video games received their special use permits in 2019. They are at 982 Belvidere Road and 1550 Pearl St., and they were approved for extensions of their permits during the March 15 city council meeting.

There was some discussion about the proposed establishment in the former state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) building on Pearl Street.

Frank first brought up a neighbor’s concern about lighting from the business shining into her bedroom.

City Community Development Planner and Event Planner Gina DelRose replied that there were conditions attached to the special use, including the use of fencing, to keep that from happening. Specifically, condition No. 6 states, “Parking lot light shall adhere to residential requirements and not exceed 25 feet in height.”

Freeman’s concern dated back to the special use request two years ago to have video games in that building, when there were multiple complaints from residents of that neighborhood. “I wasn’t aware that this was going to be for video gaming,” she said. “I thought it was for kids’ birthday parties and baby showers and bridal showers, and things like that. The neighbors did not and do not want that.”

DelRose said there were big differences between the two applications.

The first application was just for the bar and video gaming, she explained. The applicant was not agreeable to any of the conditions that were attached to the use.

The second application only allows video gaming while the special event (baby shower, etc.) was happening, she added, to try and alleviate some of the concerns in the neighborhood.

“I would like some time for the neighbors to come up and talk about this, or canvass them and see how they feel about having video gaming there, when I know they were so vehement against it,” Freeman said.

DelRose said neighbors were notified when there was a public hearing on the second request; they were notified about the video gaming.

“There were probably 20 neighbors there and the discussion went on for hours. They were well aware of it and it was thoroughly discussed.”

During discussion, one of the neighbors suggested that use of video gaming be limited to when the special event was going on, and not by itself. “They were agreeable to it,” she said of those in attendance.

Condition No. 7 was added to the special use and reads as follows:

“The proximity to single family residential uses makes the use of traditional bar/tavern inappropriate for the subject location. Therefore, the indoor commercial entertainment special use for the subject property is exclusively limited to private events, which are attended by invitation only, with invitations made to specific individuals or groups and in no event will the special use be open to the general public.”

Applicant Ryan Crombie’s letter to the city requesting the extension of the special use permit at that location stated, “With everything going on, we still are not able to move forward with the project, but are hoping to do so very soon.”

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission initially recommended approval of the special use in a 7-0 vote at its March 12, 2019, meeting. City council concurred and approved Ordinance 448H, on second reading in a 9-0 vote, on its April 1, 2019, meeting.

When it came to a one-year extension on the special use for the Pearl Street property, city council voted 8-2 for approval, at its March 15, 2021 meeting, with aldermen Freeman and Stevens dissenting. 

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