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Bella's Bistro Market fails to get Cary video gaming license on 2nd attempt

Lack of discussion ends months of back-and-forth talks

Rocky Bhalla wanted to open Bella’s Bistro Market in the corner unit of the Cary Shopping Center, 632 Route 14. It would have featured a food and wine counter, a large seating area, a VIP room with video gaming machines and an Italian market space. However, the Village Board has denied a video gaming license to the establishment, and Bhalla said he will not open the market without it.
Rocky Bhalla wanted to open Bella’s Bistro Market in the corner unit of the Cary Shopping Center, 632 Route 14. It would have featured a food and wine counter, a large seating area, a VIP room with video gaming machines and an Italian market space. However, the Village Board has denied a video gaming license to the establishment, and Bhalla said he will not open the market without it.

CARY – A business owner hoping to get a video gaming license from village officials didn’t have any luck at a recent meeting, although other businesses have received licenses since he first was denied in July.

Rocky Bhalla wanted to open Bella’s Bistro Market in the corner unit of the Cary Shopping Center, 632 Route 14. It would have featured a food and wine counter, a large seating area, a VIP room with video gaming machines and an Italian market space.

Village decision makers, however, were concerned that the business would be more like a gambling cafe than an upscale wine bar. The gaming room would take up less than 10 percent of the space, Bhalla has said.

In July, the Village Board narrowly approved Bhalla’s request for a liquor license. Trustees Jim Cosler, Ellen McAlpine, Kim Covelli and Mayor Mark Kownick voted “yes,” and trustees Christine Betz, Jennifer Weinhammer and Jeff Kraus voted “no.”

But the board denied the request for a video gaming license, with McAlpine and Covelli being the only “yes” votes.

On Nov. 21, Bella’s Bistro Market was back on the agenda, although Kraus and McAlpine were absent from the meeting.

Bhalla apparently did not do enough between June and November to convince trustees his proposal was worthy of approval.

Neither he nor his representative had a chance to step to the microphone and take questions from the board because the motion to approve it was not seconded, so discussion never started.

No village official commented further in the meeting, which was posted to the village’s YouTube channel.

But during a June meeting, Kownick said the village was on a slippery slope with the proposal.

“From what I’ve seen and how it’s been presented, it feels more like a gaming parlor,” Kownick said at the time.

Since Bella’s Bistro Market first was denied a video gaming license in Cary, several more establishments were granted the same license by Cary officials.

A call to Bhalla’s representative was not returned. Bhalla said in June that he would not open the market without the gambling license.

The Village Board wants to keep “gaming cafes” – where video gaming is the top source of revenue and main component of the business operation – out of Cary. They prefer video gaming to be an “accessory” to a business, such as a restaurant with a full kitchen.

The board updated its ordinance earlier this month to add specific language regarding this.

Village Administrator Jake Rife said Wednesday that he did not recall any significant changes between Bhalla’s June proposal and the one before the board Nov. 21.

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