Watseka mayor addresses gaming machine applications
HomeHome > News > Watseka mayor addresses gaming machine applications

Watseka mayor addresses gaming machine applications

Jul 19, 2023

Photo by Carla Waters

Watseka Mayor John Allhands discusses gaming license applications and other matters at the Feb. 28 Watseka City Council meeting.

Watseka Mayor John Allhands spoke about a local grocery store's efforts to install gaming machines.

It had been discussed at the Watseka City Council finance committee meeting Feb. 21 that Berkot's was moving forward with this installation.

At the full council meeting Feb. 28, Allhands said explained the history of the store and its importance to the community.

He said several years ago the store was in Watseka and then left. "The Iroquois County Economic Development director and a local businessman convinced them too come back," Allhands said, noting that a 65 percent sales tax abatement was issued to Berkot's about 12 years ago. That agreement expires in 2028.

He said the store's rent is presently in the "mid-five figures a month. The lease for the store is up in 2024 and "they are trying to get it negotiated down as they have had struggles of late making a profit.

"Six months, approximately, before I became an alderman there was a preliminary agreement to let them build a meat processing facility that would have brought 12 to 15 additional jobs. This facility would have supplied meat to their additional stores. This. I think, would have had additional bond with the city. But a new building inspector came in (he emphasized it was not the present building inspector Eric Brandt) and put a stop to the project. They built a new $1 million facility in the Joliet area.

"I was approached last summer about their wanting to expand their cold storage facilities and the former Standard Register/UARCO building was investigated. I offered the multiple incentives that the city has to offer and told them that we would look into any creative measures if that would help to make a deal. The owner stated that this is their furthest south fringe store and they wanted something in the middle of their territory to keep shipping costs down," Allhands said, noting again that even with the "tax incentive it seems that it is hard to make a profit."

Allhands said Berkot's has had a package liquor license for years with the city. "Two years ago they came in and presented that they would like to open a cafe and that they would want a full serve bar, which we had created a new license of package and on premises. After the presentation the license was issued to Berkot's without any objection. We all know that businesses are able to apply for a state liquor license and gaming once they have ours. There was some objection when the gas stations started applying for gaming licenses two to three years ago and that's when I mentioned that to stop the additional gaming we need to eliminate the available on p resumes liquor licenses then but it was chosen not to act on it as thee was still the possibility of getting Burgers and Beer. So Berkot's getting gaming I believe ha been in the works for two years at the minimum."

Allhands told the council it needs to decide "what other measures we can do if we choose to help Berkot's if they can't get a rent deduction and gaming doesn't help offset these costs. Just a reminder, there is already a tax abatement, but the gaming is really not a new issues since the liquor license was issued two years ago."

He said he has seen quite a bit of negative commenting on social media about this issue as well as complaints about a steak restaurant and a pizza restaurant coming to town.

"If we had the power, do we really want to turn service businesses away? I guess I don't understand the logic," he said, noting that there is also someone interested in the old KFC building and someone interested in the former Charms building.

He also told the council members that there is an individual who is interested in annexing a piece of land into the city on the east side that could be developed. He told aldermen, too, that the council needs to meet with other taxing bodies about three new tax incremental financing districts and asked them to think about dates for that. Another meeting that he wants to see happen soon is one about the proposed streetscape. No meeting dates were finalized.

Success! An email has been sent to with a link to confirm list signup.

Error! There was an error processing your request.

Get the latest local and national news.

Success! Error!