Wheaton mulls alcohol law

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Residents weigh in on ordinance, possible bar opening in town

The city of Wheaton had a number of residents attend its October meeting to discuss the topic of the town’s alcohol ordinance.

The city was presented with a business plan from Dottie Wilson a few months ago, and aldermen said they would move forward on it.

However, Wilson ran into an issue when applying for a business license — the city’s alcohol ordinance didn’t allow for alcohol to be sold by the drink.

Wilson is wanting to bring in a restaurant and bar to the old sale barn in the city.

“I am wanting a county atmosphere with rodeo activities outside and a steak house type of bar and grill on the inside,” she said. “The restaurant portion of the business would have to be built as an addition to the current building.”

At the October meeting, about two dozen Wheaton residents and business owners came to voice their opinions about the business in city limits.

Gene Robinson, pastor at Body of Christ Ministries in Wheaton (not Gene Robbins, candidate for Southern Commissioner), said a bar in town would bring the wrong problems and the wrong people into a residential area.

“I don’t think we need alcohol by the drink,” he said. “It is the wrong option for the city to choose for revenue and the city will regret it. The residents and the children don’t need it.”

Resident John Hensley said he understands the concern with alcohol, given his parents were killed by a drunk driver.

“But, if we are to have a bar in town, this is the woman to give it to,” he said. “[Wilson] won’t turn drunks out on the street.”

Lindy Lombard asked the city council how many business licenses had been applied for in recent years.

“Our town is drying up,” he said. “I think Dottie is offering revenue for the city. Additionally, [since it is a bar and grill business plan], people will have the same opportunity to order a bottle of alcohol just like they can order a glass of water. As a business owner in town, I support this 100 percent.”

Hensley said there is a way to do this safely and right.

However, Robinson argued that there is no way to do it safely when the topic is alcohol.

Wilson said the business would be open seven days a week with closing time at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday nights and midnight on Friday and Saturday.

“I don’t want anything bad to happen,” she said. “I love this town.”

She said she has loved the city of Wheaton since she was a little girl, and has fond memories of the rodeo.

“The intention is to have a family restaurant,” she said. “I don’t want it to be a horrible place. I am not even a drinker, but I know a lot of people like to have a drink when they eat.”

Wilson said she is trying to reach out and bring more people to the area.

“I am hoping this can make our town come to life,” she said. “I want to open up jobs and income in this town.”

Wilson said she loves the atmosphere in Wheaton, the fact that everyone knows one another and they always have each others’ backs.

“I feel bad that [Robinson] feels that this would be a bad thing,” she said.

Wilson said there is still a lot of work to do with building before a possible grand opening.

“We are aiming for the first of the year, but it may take longer,” she said. “We have started the process of purchasing the property, but had to put things on hold for a bit to work out the ordinance issue.”

The city did approve to revise the city ordinance to allow for alcohol sales by the drink and will vote on that ordinance once again in November.

Clint Danforth, Wheaton police chief, said during hours of operation there will be increase patrol in town, so there is some protection in that, as well.

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