Some Neighbors Frustrated as Rural On Tap Clears Another Hurdle

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ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The tug of war over a proposed bar in Rockford’s Rural Oaks neighborhood rages on as some neighbors see themselves on the losing end of the battle. The owners of the potential watering hole have moved one step closer to opening.

Derrick Kunz knows it will take a lot of elbow grease to transform a dusty storefront into an upscale neighborhood bar called Rural on Tap. Kunz and his business partner plan on investing about $150,000 into the place and want to open by the end of July.

“When we first started to come in, what we really wanted, we wanted just a social gathering place with some craft beers and wines,” says Derrick Kunz. “We want to make sure we build up with economic development in the area.”

A committee approved the bar's liquor license Monday. Some neighbors say that decision deliberately ignored their objections.

"We have 240 petitions signed by people who didn't want this bar. It seemed like no matter what we did, no matter what we tried, it wasn’t good enough to get the support of the people," says Ken Becker, his office is right behind the proposed bar.

Others argue, a bar is not the right fit for their neighborhood, in part because there won't be enough parking for the 8 businesses in the shopping center.

"They can come up with all kinds of excuses to override the requirements it still comes down to the fact that it's an overuse of the property," says neighbor Frank Schmitt.

Kunz says he has listened and responded to neighborhood concerns, for example, he won't install video gaming machines at the bar. Kunz adds, he doesn't mind this debate over his business.

"We actually have a community that really cares about a neighborhood and that’s what we want, we want economic prosperity, we want people that want to come down and have a neighborhood place,” says Kunz.

The full council still needs to approve the liquor license; they’ll look it over next week.

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