Internet cafes may soon need special-use permit to operate in Toledo
Anyone looking to open an Internet cafe in Toledo Ohio may soon have to secure a special-use permit before their patrons can log on.
Councilman Tyrone Riley, who represents District 1, said he will ask for support from his colleagues at the next council meeting to request that the Toledo Plan Commission study the facilities — where people play electronic games of chance similar to slots — and require the businesses to apply for special-use permits to allow more scrutiny from council and give the public a chance to weigh in.
“I just feel that those types of facilities, even though they’ve been licensed by the state of Ohio, if they’re going to be placed in the neighborhood or in the community then the public should have some input,” he said.
The proposal comes after Matt Sapara, vice president of regional development and operations for Mercy Health Toledo, sent a letter to city council members expressing his concern about the possibility of an Internet cafe opening at an old bank building on Cherry Street between the hospital and Central Catholic High School
The Blade could not find any records verifying an intent to purchase the property and open an Internet cafe at the Cherry Street corridor, but Mr. Sapara said a real estate agent told him someone had expressed interest and, if true, he wants city council to prevent that from happening.
“If this Internet Cafe project is allowed to take place, I’m very concerned that the redevelopment momentum that exists today will be compromised,” he wrote. “Entities and individuals are contributing funds to the Cherry Street Corridor because of sound development strategies. An Internet Cafe, adjacent to a high school, goes against every development principle.”
Central Catholic High School officials echoed Mr. Sapara’s worries that an Internet cafe would be detrimental to the area’s redevelopment. They also expressed concerns that a sweepstakes facility would be a poor influence on their students.
“As an educational institution with a successful history of educating our youth, it is unsettling to Central Catholic that an establishment that promotes gambling, and is mere feet away from our campus, will send the wrong message to our students,” a spokesman said in a statement.
Councilman Yvonne Harper, who represents District 4 where the high school and hospital are located, said it all comes down to land use.
“I’m not against these cafes, but I don’t think I need it in that area,” she said. “With the redevelopment, we’re trying to do things. That doesn’t fit in there.”
She said she supports requiring a special-use permit for Internet cafes and wants to take a hard look at whether existing facilities are operating by the book. The cafes are allowed to run sweepstakes, but they can’t pay out cash or prizes worth more than $10, said Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
“We need to really look into it,” Ms. Harper said. “For some reason, they were all closed up and then they started popping back up again.”
Mr. Riley said he had concerns about where Internet cafes are allowed to locate within the city before Mercy Health officials voiced their objection.
“I think we need to make sure that these facilities are in the appropriate neighborhood,” he said.
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