New liquor store proposed in Millstadt

(NOTE: While the original print and online versions of this story indicated a Sav-On Liquor & Wine store was planning to open in Millstadt, Pour Decisions co-owner Jen Estes later reached out to clarify it is instead a different ownership group looking to open the new business. A representative from Sav-On also contacted the paper to say it is not involved in this Millstadt proposal. The story has been adjusted accordingly.)

A potential new liquor and convenience store in Millstadt has raised concerns, with business owners and residents expressing opposition at last week’s village zoning board meeting.

On June 23, Millstadt liquor store Pour Decisions made a post on its Facebook page noting how it had opened just over a year ago.

Pour Decisions said its future is now being threatened by a “much larger conglomerate” which is proposing an establishment that might serve as a liquor store, vape shop and grocery store.

The Facebook post by Pour Decisions went on to describe the potential impact such a store could have on Millstadt businesses.

“We are all for new businesses and competition. However, in a village of 4,000 people, we already have four different locations where alcohol can be purchased, with one being strictly a liquor store,” Pour Decision’s post states. “This second location will not bring more liquor sales, but dilute the ones that are already here, which again would kill the business we worked so hard to open just one year ago.”

The post closed by requesting Millstadt residents visit Pour Decisions or the Millstadt IGA to sign a petition against the proposed store.

Research by the Republic-Times discovered that the property in question is 500 E. Washington Street, the now-vacant former Ray’s One Stop in Millstadt. Per a BARBERMURPHY real estate news release, this one-acre tract was sold by East Washington Street Property, LLC to AG 159, LLC on Oct. 31, 2022.

The owner of this property is Amit Patel of Fairview Heights, who also owns Fairview Liquor at 5329 N. Illinois Street in Fairview Heights. The manager of the LLC that sold Patel the property was managed by Millstadt residents Edward, Kathleen and Weston Hock.

Though the zoning board was originally set to discuss a variance for the new business at its June 27 meeting, it was noted just before the meeting that this request had been withdrawn.

While no related discussion item was on the agenda, members of the community who gathered at the meeting to voice concerns about the store still participated in a discussion with zoning board members for roughly 25 minutes prior to the meeting.

Among those who spoke was Jen Estes, one of the owners of Pour Decisions.

Estes said that, while the decision to open the store seemed to be entirely up to Millstadt Mayor Michael Todd, individuals present at the meeting were simply looking for a way to express their opposition.

“We’re trying, as business owners that are going to be affected, especially us, trying to figure out who do we talk to, who needs to know, because we all are kinda blindsided that this is being done,” Estes said.

Another individual to speak prior to last Tuesday’s meeting was Millstadt Village Trustee Ray Famula, who is the father of Pour Decisions co-owner Corey Famula. In a twist, Ray formerly owned Ray’s One Stop.

Ray similarly noted the zoning board didn’t have a say in the process of establishing the new store, but nevertheless emphasized the impact this store could have on the community.

“We’re all well aware that you guys have no say-so in that regard, but I think we’re here just to address you as citizens of Millstadt,” Ray said. “Think about it in your head if you think this is something that’s gonna benefit Millstadt. Because I can see no benefit, only replacement as far as the tax revenue or anything else, and it’s going to affect four existing businesses that do the same thing, and it could hurt or run out one or more of those businesses.”

Ray went on to say that, while he doesn’t hold any ill will against those trying to open the new business, such a large store will inevitably be bad for Millstadt’s current store owners.

“They’re gonna come here, and the only way they can build that expensive of a facility is to get rid of somebody who’s here,” Ray said. “They’ve already got us surrounded in Belleville, Freeburg, Smithton, Waterloo and Cahokia.”

It was also noted during the meeting that the previously mentioned petition at Pour Decisions and the Millstadt IGA had accrued roughly 500 signatures in just a few days.

Others pointed out how a similar situation with a large liquor store had arisen in Red Bud, with the project ultimately being halted by the city council.

Several speakers in attendance also voiced their issue with how the decision appeared to ultimately be left to Millstadt’s mayor.

Following the meeting, Pour Decisions made another Facebook post expressing appreciation for those in attendance and further urging Millstadt residents to sign the petition.

“We want to thank everyone that showed up to show support last night,” the post said. “We think it was very eye-opening for everyone involved. But the work isn’t over!”

That post also asked folks to turn out at the upcoming Millstadt Village Board meeting set for 7 p.m. July 10.

Ray spoke with the Republic-Times following the zoning board meeting. Though he did not offer personal comment, he did say the issue is set to be placed before the village board for a vote at the July 10 meeting.

Todd and Corey were both unavailable for comment.

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Andrew Unverferth

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