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Liquor license dispute continues in Steeleville

By Pete Spitler
updated: 12/5/2017 4:04 PM

The two factions involved in the liquor license dispute in Steeleville appear headed into the new year with no end in sight to the conflict.

As the Herald Tribune/Steeleville Ledger has previously reported, the heart of the issue is the village board's June decision to require a second liquor license for Steeleville Legion Bowl, which shares a breezeway with the American Legion Hall.

For more than 40 years, the two entities existed with one liquor license until June. The board's decision is one that Mayor Bob Sutton, who is also the village's liquor commissioner, has continually claimed is backed by state law requirements due to the Legion and bowling alley being separate buildings.

American Legion Post 480 representatives, along with the Steeleville Legion Riders and other supporters, have previously and continue to dispute the claim that the bowling alley and club room are separate buildings.

The Legion has kept the issue fresh by submitting letters to the editor and speaking on the topic at each monthly regular meeting of the board.

Legion representative Rich Trokey was back at the podium again on Monday, this time responding in part to a list of items Sutton had stated at the end of the board's November meeting that the mayor claimed the city does for the Legion.

Trokey zeroed in on two things Sutton said the city performs during the annual 4th of July celebration - trash service and cleaning up Broadway Street after the parade.

"Isn't that why we pay taxes?" he asked. "What does that have to do with having one liquor license or two?"

Trokey said the Legion would address the other items on Sutton's list in future meetings and stated the Legion also held off on its letter writing campaign to give the mayor more time to reconsider rescinding the requirement for two liquor licenses.

"We asked you to reconsider your position and to date, no response," Trokey said.

Trokey also compared the Legion to other businesses in the village that sell alcohol, stating the Legion's two Class A licenses force it into acting like two businesses.

"What's the sense in all this?" he asked.

In his response, Sutton focused on the word "premises," as included in both state statute and village ordinance.

"Steeleville ordinance says that each building, location and premises must have its own liquor license," he said.

Sutton said Steeleville's ordinance is the same as Red Bud, Evansville, Coulterville, Marissa and New Athens.

"It says 'premises,'" he said. "They follow the same state statute. It says 'premises.'

"It doesn't say anything else."

Sutton also brought up Trokey's argument that a gaming agent, who Trokey has claimed had audited the Legion and stated he could not grant more gambling machines for the bowling alley due to the bowling alley and club room being one building.

The Legion has said it is no longer interested in putting gambling machines in the bowling alley.

"This is not a gambling issue," Sutton said to Trokey. "You've tried to make this a gambling issue and it's not. It's a liquor issue."

The mayor addressed the argument of whether the club hall and bowling alley are one building or two.

"You own a place that serves alcohol in two locations next to to each other," Sutton said. "You may not agree, but that's the law.

"The issue is that it is the law and we're trying to follow the law. We have said that from the very first meeting."

During public comment, the village board heard from Ray Wedemeyer and Harry Rahlfs on the topic.

Wedemeyer also highlighted Sutton's list, much of which deals with the July 4 picnic.

"This isn't the Legion's parade," he said. "This is the community's parade. This is American citizens celebrating the birth of freedom."


• The village's general fund was stated to have $121,527.44.

• The board approved donating $200 to the Steeleville Chamber of Commerce's Christmas lighting contest.

• Don Badgley of the Steeleville United Methodist Church spoke on a free community breakfast being offered by the church on Saturday, December 16 from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

"The purpose is not only to share, but to say thank you to the people who serve the community," Badgley said.

• The board approved the annual tax levy ordinance, which will levy $101,571.

• The board approved the 2018 meeting dates. The board meets on the first Monday of every month except January and September (first Thursday) and possibly July depending on which day of the week July 4 falls on.

• The board accepted the resignation of cook Lorene Word, who is retiring and will have her last day on December 29. She has served as cook for the past 10 years.

• During committee reports, it was stated leaf pickup will continue for three more weeks and the village's new trash truck will arrive next week.

• Steeleville Assistant Fire Chief Mike Armstrong reported 25 calls for service in November, all but five were medical calls.

• Sutton commented on upcoming changes to the state's Raffles and Poker Runs Act, which will require ordinance changes in Steeleville. The ordinance is expected to be voted on during the board's January meeting.

Sutton stated the state will require a maximum prize amount, along with a one-year time limit. That conflicts with the Queen of Hearts games, which have 54 cards, but 52 weeks in the year.

"They're not going to be able to run 54 weeks," he said.

• Village Supervisor Lyn Thies stated the village is losing money on water tap fees and may look to raise them to the point where they meet the village's expenses.

• Lastly, the board entered into executive session to discuss raises and bonuses for employees.