“The only way to keep the peace is to remain neutral on it,” said Marlene Tap, owner of Forest Park Emporium, 7345 Madison St., echoing the sentiment of most businesses on the issue of video gaming in Forest Park. The Review knocked on nearly 40 doors along Madison Street, Oct. 26, surveying local business owners on what they think about video gaming, how they believe the practice impacts their business and what they would like voters to know as the Nov. 6 deadline to vote on the practice in Forest Park approaches. Most declined to comment out of fear of alienating customers or nearby business owners.
But there were a few exceptions.
Sue Jafee, owner of Knit Nirvana, 7453 Madison St., said she believes video gambling threatens the chic, trendy and family-friendly vibe officials have worked so hard to cultivate along Madison Street.
“Video gaming will bring another element to the area and that concerns me. I don’t know if I would have put my business here if it had been legal. … I understand bars want more income but it’s not bringing the town that much more money,” Jafee said.
She also thinks it was wrong for the Forest Park Village Council to approve video gaming in October 2016, ignoring the majority of residents who voted against legalizing the practice in a non-binding referendum.
Frederick Bryant, owner of Accents By Fred, 7519 Madison St., also weighed in, noting that in the two years video gaming has been legal in Forest Park, he doesn’t believe there’s been a negative impact on the town. Bryant said he supports video gaming in Forest Park as long as controls on the practice stay as is in the village.
“As long as they control it with the signs and don’t allow those gambling parlors, I’d like to see them keep it for the bar owners,” he said.
Chris Geoghegan, owner of Moss Modern Flowers, 7405 Madison St., said she finds the practice unacceptable. Geoghegan said she was stunned when she learned that, nearby, the Junction Diner restaurant had successfully applied for a video gambling license although the restaurant has not installed any machines.
“It’s an unfortunate thing to hit our community,” Geoghegan said. “I think it’s not acceptable. In my mind, I think it brings more alcohol-related incidents to the street and it’s just one more addiction people don’t need.”
She believes the state should legalize and tax recreational marijuana to bring more revenue to the village.
Augie Aleksy, owner of Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore, 7419 Madison St., said he could understand the perspective of residents who hold a moral opposition to video gambling and bars that want to continue the practice to boost their bottom line. He also noted that bar owners have stuck to their word about not using signs to promote the practice.
“Gambling can be someone’s means of enjoyment but for others it can be a problem,” he said. “I’m just happy in a way that I’m not a citizen of Forest Park who has to make this decision because I’ve got friends on both sides.”
Paul McKenna, owner of Starship Restaurant & Catering, said he considered installing video gaming machines at 7618 Madison St., but ultimately realized he was in the food business, and the food business alone.
“The worry from the get-go was, we would become Pottersville and that hasn’t seemed to happen. I don’t think video gaming has blemished the town,” McKenna said. “It should be residents’ call. If they don’t want it, it shouldn’t be done.”
This story has been updated to reflect Chris Geoghegan is the owner of Moss Modern Flowers.