© 2023 WGLT
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bloomington OKs Plans For Pizzeria With Gambling

Pizza, alcohol and gambling will be available at a longtime vacant Bloomington lot in the near future.

Mark Allen and Carl Muench will build LuLu’s Pizza on the former Mr. Quick restaurant site at the corner of Washington and Clinton streets after the Bloomington City Council voted 7-1 on Monday to approve development plans and a beer-and-wine liquor license.

Muench said the project will begin as soon as possible and the business should open sometime next year. He insisted the establishment will not act as a gambling parlor.

“It is a restaurant. There are other locations that are parlors; there aren’t any in Bloomington,” he said. “We are a restaurant and we have gaming just like any other restaurant has gaming as well.”

Bloomington lifted a moratorium on issuing new gambling licenses in August, raising the maximum from 52 to 60. The agreement ensures LuLu’s will get a video gambling license as long as it meets code requirements, even if the city has reached the cap.

Council member Donna Boelen cast the lone vote against the agreement, while Jenn Carrillo was absent. Boelen said she doesn’t approve of giving LuLu’s special treatment.

“Now the cap is being changed or will be changed specifically for this business,” she said. “I’m very much a fan, first, of all following the rules that we make, and equity – treating all businesses equal.”

Credit Joe Deacon / WGLT
Bloomington economic development director Melissa Hon answers questions about the proposed LuLu's Pizza development during Monday's City Council meeting.

Melissa Hon, the city’s economic development director, said the exception will be made because the owners purchased the site and began planning the business before the moratorium was in place. Allen and Muench, who own the Speed Lube directly west of the Bloomington site, operate one existing LuLu's Pizza and Gaming restaurant in Decatur and are building a second location there.

“They cannot move through the state (licensing) process without having the site, and they can’t have the site until they build their building,” said Hon, who noted the city still has six licenses remaining. “So in order to ensure that they’re able to replicate their current business model, we’ve provided them through this agreement that they would be guaranteed that one gaming license.

“Should there be a license available once they get their building built and through the process, then they would be able to just take one of the current licenses.”

The council’s approval came after the owners agreed to drop “and Gaming” from the name of the business and accepted a compromise allowing liquor sales to begin at 10 a.m. instead of their initial request of 7 a.m.

Businesses with video gambling are limited to five terminals, and gambling proceeds cannot exceed 50% of the establishment's total revenue.

Council member Jamie Mathy said that while he remains concerned about new businesses being designed around gambling rooms, he believes LuLu’s will benefit the area.

“They do have a good reputation in Decatur for good pizza. I hope that’s what the primary driver for the facility here in Bloomington is,” he said. “I think they can be a very valuable part of the community. I just hope that it isn’t what everybody fears is a gaming parlor.”

Other Business

Among its other actions, the council approved:

  • Purchasing $103,000 worth of playground equipment for Clearwater and Wittenberg Woods parks
  • Hiring J.P. Morgan to finance $4.6 million worth city taxable capital equipment leases at a cost of $343,000 over 10 years
  • Amending the current fiscal year budget by $150,000 to account for increased recycling costs
  • Paying $176,000 for the annual renewal of citywide Microsoft software maintenance and support
  • Spending $100,000 on exterior masonry work at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts

During public comments, four speakers asked the council to consider opting out of allowing recreational cannabis businesses to operate in the city. There were no cannabis-related items on the agenda.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.

Joe Deacon is a reporter at WCBU.
Related Content