Clovis City Council members approved a partnership change for a popular downtown cardroom that could pave the way for its expansion and move.
On Tuesday night, the City Council supported the 500 Club's partnership change. The change will drop George Sarantos from the partnership, leaving sole ownership in the hands of his brother, Louis Sarantos. Under city guidelines, an ownership change for a cardroom must get council approval.
The Sarantos family began renting the 500 Club building, at 500 Clovis Avenue, in 1953. In 1974, Louis and George Sarantos bought the club from their parents and formed the partnership.
In two weeks, the council is expected to hear about expansion plans for the cardroom, which involves a move to a shopping center at Shaw and Willow avenues, said John Holt, the assistant city manager.
The move would allow the 500 Club to triple its tables to 18 and triple in size, to about 12,000 square feet. The move also would allow the dining area to expand at its existing location at Clovis Avenue and Fifth Street, said John Cardot, the family's lawyer.
With the cardroom's expansion, the city would get more revenue, Holt said.
The city now receives between $15,000 and $20,000 annually from licensing fees and other revenues, but that amount could go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars with the expansion, Holt said.
"Everything is under negotiation," Holt said. "In other cities, the better the cardroom does, the better the city does."
Holt said he is reviewing ordinances from other cities where large cardrooms operate to see whether the Clovis ordinance needs changes.
The added revenue will help the city pay for more police officers and any enforcement requirements of the larger cardroom, Holt said.
Prior to Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Harry Armstrong said the 500 Club has a clean record. With competition from tribal casinos, the expansion is needed, he said.
And, he added: "It's very lucrative for the city."
The city also will get to approve new management for the club. The state Gambling Control Commission also must approve partnership changes and the expansion plans.