Citizens Speak Out Against Gaming Café On Square

The crowd a few minutes before the August 12 Greenville City Council meeting. By the start, 50 people were in attendance and there were no available seats.
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50 citizens attended Tuesday night’s Greenville City Council meeting. Several people, including representatives of the Bond County Ministerial Alliance, spoke directly to the council, voicing opposition to a proposed gaming café that could be established on the Greenville square. Robert and Vicki Ellsworth of Greenville have proposed a new business that would serve light meals and alcohol and offer video gambling. The Ellsworths have indicated that the business would be geared toward an upscale older female clientele. The Ellsworth’s daughter, Jessica Johnson, gave a presentation, stressing that the proposed café is not a bar or tavern and that the video gaming machines would not be visible from the street or even the entrance to the café.

Many of those who voiced opposition cited their faith and moral concerns, along with concern over the integrity of the square. Numerous citizens said they wanted the square to retain its family-friendly feel.

Councilman Kenny Hampton provided a detailed timeline of the past five years, from when alcohol sales were first allowed in the city limits, to the addition of gaming, and the recent removal of the ban on gaming around the Greenville square. Hampton said when the council lifted the ban on video gambling on the square the thought was that if gaming could be allowed at a business on Harris Avenue, it was logical that it should be legal four blocks to the north on the square. Hampton and several other councilmen said that when they lifted the ban, they hadn’t considered the possibility of an establishment like a gaming café coming to the square. Hampton stressed that the Ellsworths were within their legal rights to apply for the liquor license necessary to establish their gaming café and said they had done no wrong in doing so.

Mayor Alan Gaffner said he wanted to offer a time of public comment Tuesday night so that anyone who wanted to share their opinion had a chance to do so before the council acted on the matter. Several of the councilmen also noted that it was their job as an elected official to represent the interest of all citizens, not just those present at the meeting, or those they personally agree with.

No action was taken on the issue Tuesday night.