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Restaurant owner discouraged after Peoria City Council again delays vote on liquor license

Highly Flavored owner Jeremy Sargent stands at the podium in the Peoria City Council Chambers during Tuesday's meeting.
Joe Deacon
Highly Flavored owner Jeremy Sargent stands at the podium in the Peoria City Council Chambers during Tuesday's meeting.

The owner of a restaurant business hoping to move into the Twin Towers Mall faces another delay following the Peoria City Council’s second deferral of a vote to grant the site a liquor license.

Jeremy Sargent is seeking site approval on a liquor license for Highly Flavored to move into the downtown space formerly occupied by the Creve Coeur Club after an abrupt departure from the Landmark Recreation Center in May.

“I was hoping to open mid-July, but with these setbacks I’m pushing that date back further and further,” Sargent told the council Tuesday night. “So to push it back another month is just going to set me back that much more, and the bills over there are due. The rent needs to be paid.”

The city liquor commission recommended approval of a liquor license for the site, but after concerns were raised by residents and the police department related to alleged problems at the Landmark location, the council deferred a vote to deny the application at its previous meeting.

On Tuesday, with a motion to deny remaining on the floor, District 2 council member Chuck Grayeb requested another deferral until Aug. 13 to give him more time to talk with constituents who asked to meet with him.

Saying he’s needed to defend himself over the last two months, Sargent noted the previous tenant had a liquor license at his intended site for nearly two decades.

“To have that information and the understanding that this site has had a liquor license for 19 years, and here I am to get a site approval again but [to] go through so many hoops and setbacks, upon negative information that’s being spread about me, is really discouraging,” said Sargent, who also operates The Fry Spot on Dries Lane.

City attorney Patrick Hayes told the council his overview of police reports from the eight months Highly Flavored was open at Landmark didn’t indicate the business was the source of trouble.

“There were some reports that reflected some chaos that we see in many areas where people congregate. Only three of those incident reports Highly Flavored or Mr. Sargent; those three reports didn’t indicate any conduct on behalf of the organization or business operations that led to or precipitated those issues,” said Hayes.

Council member Bernice Gordon-Young, who cast Tuesday’s lone vote against the new deferral, questioned the need to delay.

“Are you saying that they want to talk more about the site, as far as site approval? Or they’re wanting to talk more about the actual business owners?” she asked Grayeb.

“I’ll know when I get there, when we have the meeting,” he responded. “If I had the value of the input, we wouldn’t have to have a deferral.”

Strategic plan filed

The council formally received and filed the city’s new five-year strategic plan following a brief presentation from Assistant City Manager Kimberly Richardson.

“What you’re seeing here are our outcome measures that will be focused on for 2024-2025. We will be coming back to you all during our budget process with a more detailed outline and plan on how we integrate this into the budget priorities as we move forward,” said Richardson.

The plan's six priority areas focus on quality of life, community safety, downtown development, business growth and prosperity, infrastructure, and embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“We said from the beginning that we didn’t want a plan that was stagnant and not flexible, one that’s not changeable,” said Mayor Rita Ali. “We want it to be a living document.”

Richardson said a visual tool to document progress toward the plan’s goals will be available on the website by the first quarter of next year.

ARPA distributions

In two separate actions, the council unanimously awarded a total of $300,000 in grants from the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan Act [ARPA] funds to help build ADA-compliant entrances at two historic downtown buildings.

The first $150,000 allocation goes to the Peoria Women’s Club for construction of a handicapped-accessible entrance on the Madison Street side of the building. The work is part of the third project of a $4 million building restoration effort that began in 2019.

City manager Patrick Urich said the organization has raised more than half of the funds needed for the full restoration so far.

“There is space in the public right of way for that [ADA entrance]; they would obviously have to have a public use agreement with the city and a maintenance agreement going forward,” said Urich.

“It’s just fantastic what’s been done to revitalize this historic building, and I think this is a good use of the funds,” added Grayeb.

Additionally, The Madison Preservation Association [TMPA] receives $150,000 for shared handicapped-accessible access with the Madison Main Street Facilitation Group [MMFG] at the Madison Theater. As part of a planned renovation of the century-old theater, TMPA needs to lease access from MMFG for handicapped-accessible entrances and restrooms.

Urich explained the preservation association is in the process of developing a renovation plan for the theater building, while the facilitation group is further along in plans for restaurant and commercial space in the adjacent storefronts.

“The Madison Theater needs to have shared ADA entrances which would come in off of the Madison Street side of the facility, as well as shared bathrooms on the second floor if it’s to go forward,” said Urich.

Landfill actions deferred

At Urich’s request, a pair of agenda items related to GFL’s delays in constructing Landfill 3 were delayed until the Aug. 13 council meeting. Urich said recent conversations with the company have been productive, describing them as “collegial and very professional negotiations.”

With Landfill 2 on track to reach its capacity later this year before a new landfill would be ready, the city is exploring its options for waste storage.

“We are looking at and discussing whether or not we could potentially look at a transfer station being sited, and then transferring our waste to the Indian Creek landfill that they operate in Tazewell County for 15 years, and then plan to operate our landfill after that 15-year period of time,” said Urich.

“But at the same time, GFL is proceeding with looking at getting the permits to construct our landfill. We continue to have that dialogue with them; we’re trying to get to a point where we can come back to you with a recommendation.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.