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Utica recommends ‘gaming cafe’ to open at the old Willows

The Utica Planning Commission voted 4-0 Thursday to approve a special use for a gaming cafe at the old Willows. The recommendation requires action by the Utica Village Board, which meets Nov. 12.
The Utica Planning Commission voted 4-0 Thursday to approve a special use for a gaming cafe at the old Willows. The recommendation requires action by the Utica Village Board, which meets Nov. 12.

Utica may be getting a “gaming cafe” at the old Willows.

Thursday, the Utica Planning Commission voted 4-0 to approve a special use for David Johnson of DND Property Solutions, LLC. Johnson wants to open a bar at Riverside Plaza, 325 Clark St. The property, formerly known as the Willows, is zoned C-2 (General Commercial District).

Johnson told the commission the upper level is devoted to lodging space and that he and his wife now are trying to develop the first floor retail space. They wanted a business that reflects Utica’s “experience-based” economy and settled on a gaming cafe that includes alcohol service and at least six gaming machines. He anticipates one to two full-time employees and several part-time positions.

“It’s not a betting parlor,” Johnson said. “It’s not that type of environment. This is going to be the type of place I could take my grandmother to.”

He further noted the village need not worry about noise or late hours, as he will have lodgers overhead who would be first to hear (and complain about) any racket from below.

There was one objector. Utica trustee Debbie Krizel acknowledged “we do need things to do in this community,” but said she preferred family-oriented activities to what’s been proposed.

Three commissioners and chairman Tom Guttilla recommend the village grant the special use.

“I hate to see a building stay empty,” commissioner Doug Gift said.

The recommendation requires action by the Utica Village Board, which meets Nov. 12.

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