The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Fat Patties Hearing Today, Additional Coverage Roundup

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The Liquor Control Commission is holding a special meeting at 7:00 p.m. tonight at the City Hall in Room 103. The commission will reconsider the Fat Patties liquor license renewal, which was denied last week after the commission deadlocked in a 3-3 vote. Commissioners Adams, Wissmann, and McDaniel voted in favor of renewal, while commissioners Fronabarger, Monty, and Fritzler voted against renewal.

Fat Patties owner Lance Jack is a member of the city council. In Carbondale, council members are also members of the local liquor control commission. Jack maintains that he can be a member of the city council and hold a liquor license, as long as he does not serve on the liquor control commission and abstains on liquor issues that come before the council. Mayor Joel Fritzler claims that Jack must serve on the liquor control commission and, thus, does not qualify for a liquor license.

I expect this to be an interesting meeting, and I’m planning to attend. The best possible outcome would be for at least one commissioner who voted no last week to change his vote to yes this week. We won’t know for certain whether that will happen until the commissioners vote at tonight’s meeting. If the vote tonight mirrors last week’s vote, Jack is expected to appeal to the state liquor control commission. Unless the dispute is resolved locally or by the state commission, it is likely to be settled in court. I’m hopeful that it won’t go that far.

The Fat Patties license took a backseat to the other major liquor issue on last week’s agenda: changing Carbondale’s liquor code to allow sales at grocery stores and possibly convenience stores and other retail establishments. An ordinance amending the liquor code proposed by Mayor Fritzler died last week for lack of a second. During council comments, council members expressed their desire to move forward, but to move more slowly.

This position seems to be the developing consensus in the Carbondale media, both new and old. Starting with the old media, the Southern Illinoisan, with the misleading headline Council Makes Mistake in Punting Liquor Sales Issue, argues that more time is required to completely overhaul our liquor code, and advises a quick fix allowing sales in grocery stores while the larger overhaul is in the works.

Moving to new media, Carbondaze Gazette blogger Scott Thorne writes that more time is required to address the concerns of council members and the public. I also argued that more time is necessary on this blog in a post last week.

I’ll add one more thought. Politics is the art of compromise, and half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. Judging by the ordinance he proposed last week, Mayor Fritzler wants to open our liquor laws by removing caps on licenses, making all of Carbondale “wet,” and allowing a variety of retail establishments to sell alcohol. I think that’s a fine position.

If that position can’t command a majority, then Fritzler should make the compromises necessary to reach a majority. I don’t know what compromises, if any, will be necessary. I do know that the public wants alcohol sales in grocery stores and a majority of the council will support that change.

It’s possible that a majority will support all of Fritzler’s proposed changes if he is willing to slow the process. But he should be willing to compromise if that’s what’s necessary to allow alcohol sales in grocery stores. Fritzler can always come back for the rest later.

Comments are welcome.

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