By CHRISTOPHER AMATI
Tony and Pannarai Southern, the new owners of Windy’s Deli, 1013 E.53rd St., are facing hard times after only two months in business due to trouble with the Illinois State Lottery.
The previous owner, who moved back to his native Thailand, sold Windy’s Deli, which has been well known in the neighborhood for about 40 years as a place to get a good sandwich and pick up lottery tickets, to the Southerns in December. The lucrative Illinois State Lottery operator’s franchise was a big incentive for the Southerns when buying the business.
After the Southerns had been operating the machine for several weeks, the former owner called lottery officials to request his name be removed as the licensed operator. At that point, the lottery authority shut the machine down.
Tony Southern said he had no idea what the procedures were for running the lottery machine.
“[The previous owner] just showed us how to sell the tickets,” Tony Southern said.
He said he and his wife were caught off guard by the shut down because they were unaware that the machines were licensed and must be transferred from owner to owner.
The couple wanted the lottery machines to be turned back on so Tony Southern applied for his own license and took the required training classes in operating the machine only to find out that a debt previously incurred at the location was preventing the reinstatement of their operation.
The couple said that as soon as the machines were turned off, any money owed to the lottery was due. This left them in the position of owning a debt they had not accrued.
The previous owner’s debt is not the reason for the delay in reinstatement of the machines, according to Illinois State Lottery officials.
“We do not comment on pending licenses but it is not our policy to hold new owners responsible for an old owner’s debt unless there is a business or family connection between them,” said Jason Schaumburg, spokesman for the Illinois State Lottery.
Tony Southern rebutted the lottery’s statement. He said the Illinois State Lottery has billed him for the previous owner’s debt.
Pannarei Southern said she and her husband have been treated unfairly and that the loss of the franchise has hurt the business and confused customers, who are drawn into the shop not only to purchase food but also to play the lottery.
The Southerns said they purchased the shop because they saw it as an opportunity to strike out on their own.
“I didn’t want to be just a cook,” Pannerai Southern said.
Without the machine the Southerns have lost customers and the financial incentives that come from being a lottery vendor.
The Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director Wallace Goode said the chamber is working with the Southerns to remedy the situation.
Despite their trouble, Tony Southern said they have found Hyde Park to be a good location for their business. He said the “people have been very nice, very cordial.”