Neighbors force last call for liquor store
Photo: Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune
Chicago Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd Ward, is surrounded by East Garfield Park residents Tuesday as he speaks at a news conference celebrating the three-year effort to close the liquor store at 2901 W. Madison St.
From her second-story porch, Marissa Baker had a clear view of the dilapidated liquor store on a corner of Madison Street and Francisco Avenue.
In the two years she and her husband have lived in their East Garfield Park row house, the couple witnessed dice games, drug deals and public urination in the littered vacant lots that flank the store at 2901 W. Madison, she said.
On Tuesday, Baker and her neighbors joined community organizers to celebrate their successful efforts to shutter the store, which they said attracted prostitution and a constant crowd of loiterers.
"Since it closed, the difference is night and day," Baker said.
While Illinois gives residents the power to ban liquor stores, taverns and nightclubs by putting the question to voters on a ballot, neighbors in East Garfield Park took a different tack.
Not wanting to turn the entire community dry, the neighborhood turned to the Chicago Buildings Department in an effort to shut down the liquor store.
As a result of their complaints, Ali Muhammad, who owns the store and building, faces 47 building code violations and the possibility that the city will demolish his building. He finally relinquished his liquor license after almost 30 years in business,
"I did it because I can't keep fighting," said Muhammad, who decried the campaign against his store. "This is not fair. I think everybody should get the same justice in the United States."
Since last summer, the Buildings Department has ordered 15 liquor stores or bars to close because the buildings did not meet code. If a structure poses a danger, Commissioner Richard Monocchio said, his department has the authority to shut the business.
"Often times, it is a building that is the epicenter of the problem," Monocchio said.
Mike Tomas, director of the Garfield Park Conservatory's New Communities Program, said the Madison Street store is the second liquor store to be shut down as a result of community opposition in East Garfield Park in the last three years.
Baker's husband, John Perryman, said the community wants to encourage business development in the area, including bars, which is why neighbors didn't want to vote the precinct dry.
Talaya Newby, manager of a liquor store two blocks west of the closed store, said shop owners have a responsibility to discourage people from loitering.
"We try to keep people from the front of the building," Newby said from behind the counter at Rothschild Liquors. "If they don't leave, we call the police."
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