TOLONO – An overflow crowd packed the Tolono Village Board meeting Tuesday, with most speaking out against a proposed change in the village liquor ordinance.
As many as 35 people crowded into the board room and spilled over into the hallway to show their concern about a proposal made last month by bar owner Angie Fry that bars be allowed to open as early as 11 a.m. on Sundays. The village ordinance currently forbids bars from opening until after 1 p.m. on Sundays.
After listening to three speakers who favored the change and a dozen or more who opposed it, the board voted 4-2 not to change the liquor sales ordinance. Voting to keep bar hours the same on Sundays were board members Jeff Holt, Kent Plackett, Jeff Little and James Snodgrass. Voting to consider changes were Marcia Woodworth and Phil Brown.
Board member Holt said he was against extending the bar hours. "I have to look at the community as a whole," he said.
But Woodworth countered that some people just want company to watch sporting events.
"It's more of a social thing – we have to look at both sides," she said.
Before the vote, Fry repeated the reason why she wanted earlier liquor sales on Sundays. She said the bars were losing customers and revenue to other towns that had earlier opening times, particularly when sporting events such as Illini games or NASCAR races started early on Sundays.
Jay Crumpe, pastor of a church located half a block from a tavern, said that for years he has put up with the noise from the tavern on Friday and Saturday nights, but "if noise will interrupt the worship of God in my church I have to object."
Crumpe also pointed out that when his church asked for a zoning variance, letters were sent out to all the neighbors giving them notice and a chance to be heard on the changes. He thought the same consideration should have been given when the bars sought to change the hours.
Pastor Ken Young of Fountain of Life Church in downtown Tolono cited parking and noise problems as the main basis for his opposition.
He also read a letter of opposition from the pastor of the Methodist church that said the churches should not have to compete on Sunday mornings for parking or with other activities that might be happening at the bars.
Local resident Richard Shipley said that his father used to own a bar in Tolono, and "we didn't open at all on Sunday – it was family day."
But Jeannie Purtell, an assistant manager at the Freedom gas station in Tolono said, "We sell beer early every day, and we turn away a lot of people on Sunday. We're losing a lot of revenue on Sundays."
In other news, Russell Curry of the city's public works department reported on problems with the new electronic readers for the water meters. The board voted to buy 50 new transmitters each month, at $60 each, this month and next month.
Police Chief Rick Raney reported that the 24/7 staffing of the police department had cost almost $6,800 more than was budgeted under the old system, which had left some hours each week uncovered.
The board put off taking any action now, pending the adoption of a new budget by the end of April.