The development of a new downtown mini-casino has its prospective neighbors in an uproar. Called the Monte Carlo Casino, the club would feature up-scale dining, dancing and gambling. The club is to be located at 938 Broadway, in-between LeRoy Jewelers and the Tacoma Children’s Museum. The same company proposes to open a second mini-casino called the Habana Café and Lounge in the former Oldies Tavern, at 6108 6th Avenue.
According to the developer, Emiel Kandi, the downtown location will cater to up-scale patrons. “This will be more of a social club atmosphere, not primarily a gambling club,” said Kandi.
The first floor will be a non-smoking, family-style restaurant offering top-quality steaks and continental fare; the gambling parlor will be on the second floor; and on the third floor will be the lounge, with entertainment and dancing. Kandi said the club will also have valet parking, using the old Topping Volvo garage.
But neighbors of the proposed downtown casino believe the area will suffer.
“Ninth and Broadway is unique in that the area has a lot of kids around,” said Steph Barber, President of LeRoy Jewelers. “It wasn’t always that way.
For a long time this was considered a dangerous place. But now – now there’s lots of family stuff in the neighborhood, like the First Night celebration, you have the Pantages, the Rialto, and you have the Children’s Museum. This block is a safe place for kids. I fear what can happen to that image.”
He said his main concern was the possibility of incidents involving drugs, alcohol or violence – which would tend to drive away his customers, or the customers of the Children’s Museum. Also, he felt the customer base of a casino would not generally be compatible with the neighborhood. “People that are drawn to casinos are not drawn to the Children’s Museum.”
“The city says there’s nothing we can do to stop it,” he said. “Some of the city people even consider it to be a good economic development. If that’s the case, well the most profitable business on the block up the street is the Mecca Theater. Why not promote more Mecca’s? Using their reasoning, wouldn’t more Mecca’s be good for downtown? I don’t believe so. Not all economic development is good for every area.”
Children’s Museum spokesperson, Sarah Blankinship, agrees with Barber. She fears the museum would lose customers if there were any incidents involving alcohol or violence at the casino. “Any incident would keep people home,” she said. “Emiel Kandi’s mission and ours are just not the same.”
The Children’s Museum staff are trying to assess the impact of the proposed casino. “We really don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Blankinship. “We had originally planned to purchase this building. Now we’ll just have to wait and see.”
According to Blankenship, Kandi had offered to become a donor to the museum, to help mitigate their concerns. She said, “It’s very generous of him, but I’m not sure we could accept gambling revenue.”
Kandi believes their fears are unfounded. “We will have a zero-tolerance policy for drunkenness and drunk driving,” said Kandi. He also said the clientele he is aiming on are more the professional gamblers, as well as doctors, lawyers, bankers and other affluent people. All of whom, he says, are unlikely to create the sort of incidents envisioned by Barber or Blankinship.
Barber and Blankinship remain unconvinced. “Our only way to fight this is to testify at the Liquor Board hearings,” said Blankinship.
A spokesperson at the Liquor Control Board stated that Kandi had withdrawn his initial application for a liquor license on February 22, 1999. According to the spokesperson, Trisha Courier, Kandi had failed to adequately document the proposed costs of the renovation for the downtown building, and at the time the initial application
was filed, he didn’t even have the necessary building permits. She said the agency told Kandi to provide firm cost-estimates for the project and copies of the permits and then re-apply. As of May 3, 1999, no new application had been received by the agency. Courier stated that when the new application is received, the public will have an opportunity to comment.