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Bloomington Council OKs Plan To Prorate Liquor Licenses

Members of the Bloomington City Council participate Monday night in a virtual council meeting on Zoom.

Some Bloomington restaurants and bars are getting the chance to have the cost of their liquor licenses reduced.

The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve an amendment to the COVID-19 emergency ordinance that will prorate the license fees of establishments that have been unable to reopen during the pandemic.

“We had a tavern owner reach out who made the decision during this COVID-19 pandemic not to be open and do the curbside liquor sales or delivery,” said City Manager Tim Gleason. “This is something we didn’t consider as staff, and it makes sense.”

Businesses with liquor licenses that are not selling alcohol through the currently allowed means and were closed for at least 30 consecutive days during the pandemic will be eligible for proration. The refund amount will be calculated by figuring the daily cost of the license and how many days the establishment was closed.

Responding to a question from council member Jamie Mathy, City Clerk Leslie Yocum said only 31 of the 176 Bloomington businesses with liquor licenses have registered to provide curbside, carry-out or delivery sales.

At its previous meeting, the council approved prorating license fees for video gambling terminals.

Another approved amendment to the emergency ordinance gives the city manager the ability to approve public safety grant agreements related to COVID-19. While the process normally requires council action, giving the authority to the city manager expedites the process.

Ferrero Enterprise Zone

The council also voted 8-1 to approve an ordinance expanding an enterprise zone to include the Ferrero plantin southwest Bloomington, offering tax incentives in hopes the candy company will choose to expand the facility.

Melissa Hon, Bloomington’s economic development director, said the city has been cooperating with the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to encourage Ferrero’s local expansion.

“It’s always nice to get a new company to come to town, but it’s even better to see one of your own grow from within,” said Patrick Hoban, president and CEO of the EDC. “This isn’t a small expansion either. This is a big investment and these are good jobs, too.”

Ferrero bought the 53-year-old plant at 2501 Beich Road from Nestle USA in 2018. The company currently employs more than 300 workers at the facility. Adding the site’s 55 acres to the enterprise zone would give Ferrero several tax incentives, including a sales tax break on building materials.

Hoban said the potential project could produce an investment of about $70 million in the plant and create up to 50 additional manufacturing jobs. Ferrero has indicated it also is considering facilities in Ohio, Canada and Mexico for possible expansion.

“We still have room in our zone to expand, and this is just a great opportunity to expand a zone that we already have and include a company that probably should’ve been included in the first go-around,” said Hoban. “Now we can make that correction and get them to grow here, hopefully.”

Jenn Carrillo cast the lone vote against the measure. The expansion also requires approval from the Town of Normal, McLean County, Gibson City and Ford County.

Other Business

Additional expenses authorized Monday include:

  • Approving a $109,700 contract with Egizii Electric of Springfield to install LED lighting at Grossinger Motors Arena. Facilities director Russ Waller explained the energy-saving lights have already been purchased and delivered, and that installation is ideal while the arena is currently shut down;
  • Purchasing a 2020 Ford F-350 utility pickup truck for use at Lake Bloomington at a cost of $50,500 from Drake Scruggs Equipment, and a 2020 F-350 dump truck costing $44,000 from Currie Motors of Frankfort; and
  • Spending $30,000 of Motor Fuel Tax funds in partnersip with the Illinois Department of Transportation to construct a new sidewalk near Sheridan Elementary School. The expense is in addition to a $200,000 grant the city received for the Safe Routes to School sidewalk project.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Joe Deacon is a reporter at WCBU.
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