Video gambling remains hot-button issue for local towns

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Video gambling, especially video gaming cafés, remains a contentious issue in many local communities, four years after becoming legal in Illinois.

State law allows any establishment with a license to serve liquor to apply to the Illinois Gaming Board for a license, which typically would permit a maximum of five gaming terminals. In Evergreen Park, only the Evergreen Park American Legion Post 854 at 9701 S. Kedzie Ave. has been issued a gaming license. But other communities have been more open to providing them, until now, when several appear to be putting the brakes on.

In Oak Lawn, 36 establishments offer video gaming. These are primarily restaurants and veterans organizations, but there are also two video gaming cafés. The village’s portion of the revenue generated monthly amounted to $49,638 in October, the same month the village board decided unanimously to limit the number of cafés to those two.

Mayor Sandra Bury said that while video gaming likely helped many struggling restaurants remain open during the recent recession, the board wanted to encourage businesses that offered more than gaming. Video gaming cafés typically serve hot food along with beer and wine, but the focus of their business is video gaming. Bury said the main purpose of allowing video gaming was to help existing businesses stay afloat, and concerns have been raised about too much video gaming bringing down the appearance of the village.

A majority of trustees on the Chicago Ridge Village Board have expressed similar concerns. Twenty establishments in that village currently have gaming licenses, including a handful of video gaming cafés. The village also raised the price of the annual licenses issued per gaming terminal from $100 to $500.

But it doesn’t look like there will be any more cafés in the near future. Over the last few months, three proposals for new businesses with gaming licenses have been rejected by five of the six trustees.

Of the 13 establishments in Worth with gaming licenses, Roma Café, 6606 W. 111th St., generated the most gambling revenue in October, with $879,000 wagered. The owner of the business had sought permission to open another café by the same name four blocks east in Chicago Ridge, but was turned down. “I’m not losing out. You are,” said owner Refaat Fanous, who had promised to offer a high-quality menu along with the gambling.

The Chicago Ridge Village Board agreed to discuss the pros and cons of officially limiting the number of video gaming cafés in the village at the next meeting on Dec. 6. Mayor Chuck Tokar has warned against doing so, asserting that turning away businesses affects the tax base, and results in more vacant commercial space. Trustee Jack Lind has argued that it doesn’t make sense to reject video gaming, because it is legal and hasn’t caused any problems for the village yet.

While Hickory Hills has 15 establishments with video gaming licenses, Palos Hills has only seven. The Palos Hills City Council had resisted allowing video gaming cafés until last December, when an ordinance was passed allowing them. It was initially rejected two months previously. There are now two gaming cafés in town.

Evergreen Park mayor: ComEd has hijacked businesses

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

plaza construction photo 11-24

Photo by Joe Boyle

Workers are putting up the interiors of buildings that will house retail businesses and restaurants by the new Carson’s for the new Plaza development near 97th and Western Avenue. Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton is angry with ComEd over what he said are safety issues they are not addressing.




Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton and the board of trustees are not happy with ComEd and its work in progress at the reconstruction of the new Evergreen Park Plaza at 95th and Western Avenue, claiming there are serious issues being ignored.

“We are very disappointed with ComEd’s actions,” said Sexton during the Evergreen Park Board meeting on Monday night. “ComEd has hijacked our businesses coming into the Plaza by overcharging them for work where electrical lines already exist and have not completed work on designated timelines. It’s very difficult to get work done when not everyone is paddling in the same direction.”

His comments were prompted by a report from Bill Lorenz, public works director, who stated that ComEd has created a dangerous, possibly life-threatening situation by burying primary power cables in three locations at the Plaza area without proper identification.

Lorenz said it poses a threat to any public workers who need to drill or excavate in the area.

“A JULIE locator (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators) could come out and identify the presence of an Edison duct, but not realize there is a large loop of primary electric cable buried in the vicinity. Someone could be killed,” he said.

Lorenz stated that he had contacted Earl Washington, ComEd engineer in charge of the Plaza redevelopment Edison power installations and suggested that a splice pit box be installed directly over the buried cable, which would indicate to a JULIE locator that the cable was present.

According to Lorenz, the response from ComEd was “We do this all the time and that is the way Edison does it.”

“That doesn’t make it safe. If that is the way Edison does it, it needs to be changed,” said Lorenz

“They are a lot bigger than we are and pretty much do what they want, but we are going to make them do this,” said Sexton. “ComEd has not been neighborly, but this is a situation where someone could be killed.”

In other matters, a business certificate was approved for Arias Chicago World Group Corp., Arias Millwork and Cabinets (Millwork of countertops and cabinets) at 9340 S. Kedzie Ave.

Also approved was a payment of 2017 membership dues to the Illinois Municipal League in the amount of $1,500.

Naples Bakery to close its doors after 97 years

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, but it may be too early to be philosophical for Naples Bakery customers, saddened by the recent announcement that the popular Evergreen Park bakery will close after 97 years on Dec. 31.

The fourth-generation family bakery that has been at 3705 W. 95th St. since 1963, dates back to 1918, when Alphonso Lauro, a native of Italy, opened the original location at 67th and Wood Street in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. He later moved to a bigger location nearby at 69th and Paulina.

He passed the business on to his son, Joseph Lauro. He died in 2000, and the bakery is now run by his daughter, Marijo Nowobielski, and her daughter, Jennifer Mavrogiannis.

Throughout its nearly 100-year history, many generations of Chicago-area residents came to the bakery that was known for its wedding cakes, and cakes for every occasion, as well as cannoli and all sorts of other pastries made using recipes handed down from Italy.

 In the announcement placed on its front door at 3705 W. 95th St., and on its Facebook page, the bakery owners said “It is with a heavy heart and deepest regret that we must announce the closing of our bakery on Dec. 31... Naples Bakery has proudly served the Chicagoland community for the last 97 years. We have developed many friendships and loyal customers and for that we are forever grateful.”

According to the statement, Barraco’s Pizza, located next-door at 3701 W. 95th St., will be taking over the space as part of its expansion plans. Barraco’s is currently undergoing a renovation following a kitchen fire that occurred in September. The fire caused Naples to close for almost a week due to water and damage. Barraco’s, another family-owned business, bought the Naples building in October, according to published reports.

The owners of Naples later clarified their statement on Facebook, stressing that Barraco’s did not force them out, as some commenters had suggested.

“Over the last 36 years that Naples and Barraco’s have been neighbors we have become very close like a family. After 97 years in business the Naples family decided the time had come,” said the owners, who could not be reached for comment earlier this week.

As soon as the announcement was placed on Facebook, dozens of customers left comments about their traditions of going there, and how sad they were to hear the news.

“Your cannolis and sprinkle cookies are an indelible part of my childhood. Today, a wonderful reminder of my very missed grandparents. So sad to see Naples go. Thank you for giving so many delicious memories,” said one woman.

“I can’t remember a family gathering without Naples baked goods on the table,” said one woman who got her wedding cake there 47 years ago.

“The best chocolate doughnuts ever,” said Mary King, of Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood. “My mother used to go there, and I continue the tradition.”

Longtime employee Fannie Lambropoulos, of Oak Lawn, said she is as sad as the customers.

“I’ve been here working behind the counter for years and years. The customers are great and it is like a family. I’m not looking forward to my last day of work,” she said.

Worth salutes volunteer firefighters

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

worth fire alumni 11-17

Photo by Dermot Connolly

Alumni of the volunteer Worth Fire Department gather behind a banner during the dedication Sunday of a plaque honoring them, which will be installed at the North Palos Fire Protection Station 3, 7116 W. 111th St., in Worth.


Past and present Worth firefighters gathered on Sunday for the unveiling of a plaque honoring members of the Worth Volunteer Fire Department, which disbanded after 83 years when the Palos North Fire Protection District took over in 2009.

The plaque reading “Dedicated to the tremendous efforts of the countless men and women volunteers of the Worth Fire Department,” was scheduled to be installed this week on the brick exterior of the department’s former home, now North Palos Fire Protection District Station 3, 7116 W. 111th St. The ceremony was held there at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“It is a tribute to all the men and women who served the people of Worth. You will never be forgotten. We will never forget what you did. We are very grateful for your service,” said Worth Mayor Mary Werner.

While she spoke, Ed Palenik and Don Albright, both alumni of the Worth Fire Department, held up an alumni banner proclaiming “Proud to Serve” and “Protecting our Village.”

Palenik, a lifelong Worth resident, currently serves as a part-time firefighter in Evergreen Park. “We alumni came up with the idea for the plaque, just to show that the department was once here. We have a great relationship with North Palos, and both associations, the alumni and North Palos, worked together to get it done.”

“It is great that we could help. They are an important part of our history,” said North Palos Deputy Chief Paul Macklin.

The Worth Lions Club also assisted with the cost of the plaque.

“To be honored as an organization like this is really something,” said Albright, who said he enjoyed his time with the Worth Fire Department, which he joined in 1976. Like Palenik, he stayed until the end of 2008, when North Palos took over. They both worked as full-time firefighters for other departments while volunteering in Worth.

“I’ve never worked with a greater group of people,” said Ken Murphy, another alumnus of the volunteer department.

The Worth Fire Department was founded in 1925, as a volunteer department with William Little as the first fire chief. The original station was a carriage house on the southeast corner of 111st and Depot Street, before the department moved across the street to the current site in 1950. The building that now houses North Palos Station 3 originally also included the Worth Village Hall, Police Department and village library. It was renovated and added upon in 1995.

“Having North Palos take over was a win-win for everybody,” said Werner. She pointed out that the fire protection district absorbed all the Worth Fire Department staff, so no jobs were lost. Also, the larger fire protection district, which also serves Palos Hills and Hickory Hills, gave Worth firefighters access to better training and upgraded equipment.

“We were very fortunate. We now have three fire stations protecting us,” said Werner, who was not in office when the change was made.

Hickory Hills approves rezoning for Sabre Woods development

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

Sabre Woods, a proposed development on the former 30-acre Sabre Room property on 95th Street, was the primary focus of Hickory Hills Council members during their meeting last Thursday.

After a lengthy discussion in a finding of fact presentation on information from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, the council agreed in a 7-1 vote to approve proposed rezoning, from its current C-3 (Commercial) to PUD/Special Use (Planned Urban Development). Casting the single dissenting vote was Ald. Joe Stachnik (3rd Ward).

Although the zoning request was approved, council members had many questions about the overall proposed development.

While the approval is subject to preparation of an ordinance at a future date, village attorney Vince Cainkar said, “Any zoning decision would be based on a starting/ending date. If timelines were not met, the zoning would revert back to the original C-3 classification.”

Presenting the proposed development plans were Jim Louthen, development project manager, and Charles Cornelius, Jr., of Chicagoland Realty Services, LLC, who is working with the Kozias Group, owners of the property.

Currently, the proposed development of the 30 acres would include six single-family homes on the west side of the property, a Senior Village for ages 55 and over, an assisted living campus including a memory unit, possibly two five-story apartment units. and retail/commercial fronting on 95th street along the eastern edge of the property. Also possible is an open civic area, green space and retention ponds.

Loughton stated that the best use for a large portion of the property on the northwest corner could be a park-like area with walking trails, benches, etc., because it is in a wetlands, floodplain area.

Mayor Mike Howley countered his statement with a question about who would be responsible for maintaining it. “This would be a huge responsibility,” he said.

Council members also questioned plans for storm water retention and if there would be retention ponds located on the property.

Loughton said the development plans called for keeping storm water on the property to avoid any flooding of neighboring properties, but there could be a problem with retention ponds as there are wetland and floodplain issues.

Ald. Debbie Ferrero (2nd Ward) questioned why apartments were being included instead of the originally planned condos in the five-story units. “We originally were told there would be condos,” she said.

Cornelius replied that market studies indicate that single-family ranches seem to be most desired.

Ferrero was not happy with his answer. “You are not answering my question. I am asking about the five-story buildings. Why apartments instead of condos?”

Ald. Tom McAvoy (3rd Ward) repeated her question about the condos, but again, did not get a definitive answer.

Asked later about the vote of approval, Howley said, “Basically we are just greenlighting the preliminary discussion and authorizing the council to enter into negotiations to approve the rezoning. It is all subject to preparation of an ordinance at a future date.”