A Montgomery couple has filled out an application for a liquor license, hoping to re-open the Mill Tavern on River Street.
On Tuesday, Jose and Michelle Velazquez talked to village trustees about their plans for the Mill, at 310 N. River St., which has been up for sale since August. The couple has applied for a license there to serve alcohol in the bar, and sell it in the adjacent liquor store.
Jose Velazquez said his plans for the Mill Tavern mirrored the way longtime owner Alice Sutcliff operated it for 53 years, before her death in May of last year. He said he would like to bring pool tables into the tavern, and perhaps get a team together to join a local league. And he would like to install video gaming machines in the liquor store, along with selling lottery tickets.
But otherwise, he said, he would like to simply re-open the Mill and run it the way it had been for years. Velazquez said he would like to renovate the property, once the Mill started making money, and would also like to build a patio behind the bar eventually.
Trustees seemed receptive at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, but some had reservations about Velazquez’ plan—specifically, the lack of food service. Trustee Denny Lee noted that the tavern was not a moneymaker for Sutcliff, and said that with other food options available, a bar without food service would not bring in customers.
“(Sutcliff) didn’t want to start a kitchen, so people only stopped in for one quick drink,” Lee said. “She made no money on the tavern. Without food, it just didn’t work.”
Trustee Matt Brolley agreed, as did Village President Marilyn Michelini, who said, “I myself would like to see food service in that building. I think there would be demand for it, and it would be good for the area."
Trustees Pete Heinz and Andy Kaczmarek argued that Velazquez should be given a liquor license and a chance to get his business off the ground before being asked to start food service. And all six trustees agreed to let Police Chief Daniel Meyers proceed with the background checks required to award a liquor license.
The Mill currently has no kitchen, so renovations and upgrades would be required to launch food service there. Velazquez said that is something he would have to seriously consider, since the financial outlay would be more than he was anticipating.
“It’s not what we wanted,” he said. “We wanted to open it the way it was.”
Velazquez, who owns Velazquez Pool Hall on LaSalle Street in Aurora with his wife, said he sees the Mill as an opportunity to make more money for his family. Additionally, he said, it would provide jobs for unemployed family members.
“When we saw (the Mill) was for sale, we knew we had to jump on it,” he said. “This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around often.”
Velazquez has not signed a contract for the property, and Meyers said there is another interested party who plans to apply for a liquor license there. Sutcliff’s license expired this month, and the Village Board voted to eliminate it, with the option to create a new one should it be needed.
Trustees can decide what type of liquor license to grant, and can also create new classifications of licenses, with their own restrictions. Village Manager Anne Marie Gaura suggested Tuesday that the Mill’s license could be broken up into two—one for the tavern and one for the liquor store.
Meyers plans to return to the board with more information, and trustees will continue the discussion then.