Barring any setbacks, a new liquor store is coming to the 5300 block of West Madison Street, thanks to an ordinance sponsored by Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) that lifted a ban on packaged goods licenses on that section of Madison.
The ordinance passed unnoticed about two months ago, and some community leaders were surprised and disappointed to learn about the liquor store coming.
On Nov. 2, Convenience For You Inc., operated by Farrah Monroe, applied for a packaged goods liquor license for the store front located at 5337 W. Madison St., located next door to Corbin Colonial Funeral Chapel. The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has between 45 and 60 days to approve or deny the application, meaning a decision could be made as soon as Dec. 17, and no later than Jan. 2, 2013.
The public has until Dec. 17 to submit feedback about the proposed liquor store, and public comment will be considered when the department reviews the liquor license application.
Graham said she met Monroe earlier this year when Monroe approached her with a plan to open a convenience store on Madison, possibly with a deli in the back. Graham said Monroe agreed to a business plan with a cap on liquor sales and a warning that if there was an increase in loitering or illegal activity around the store, the business would be shut down.
“I think the community will welcome an African-American business owner,” Graham said.
The Rev. Brian Covell, of the Third Unitarian Church, 301 N. Mayfield Ave., said he understood Graham’s decision to allow a new liquor store in the area but hoped more economic development was coming to the West Side.
“I would expect you would have a hard time finding a member of the community saying, ‘Gee, a liquor store is a really good thing,’” Covell said. “I would much prefer the alderman working with the city government to develop a more comprehensive development plan for the neighborhood.”
Covell, whose church is about one mile from the proposed location, said he worried Graham thought a liquor store was the best she could muster for the area.
“She is probably feeling some pressure to get some business in the area,” Covell said.
He said he believes Graham sees a new liquor store as a choice of “something as opposed to nothing.”
“I’m sad its come to that,” Covell said.
Graham said she is working on bringing more businesses and development to the area beyond liquor stores, and said there are two big projects in the works that would bring more than 600 jobs to the ward. But she was not able to give more details about the projects.
In February, Convenience for You contributed $1,950 to the Democratic Party of the 29th Ward, an organization chaired by Graham. The alderman said she knew about the contribution, and the money had been donated as part of a senior event the ward had organized.
“Absolutely not,” Graham replied when asked if the donation had any affect on her decision to back Convenience For You’s application for a liquor license.
Monroe could not be located for comment for this story.
Rickie Brown of the Austin African American Business Networking Association said he had never heard of Monroe, but whomever the applicant is, he was not happy about another liquor store coming to Austin.
“Why do we need another liquor store? We don’t need another liquor store,” he said. “It’s bad enough with the way things are.”
Residents with comments about the potential new liquor store may call the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection at 312-744-6060 or send written comments to 121 N. LaSalle St., 8th Floor, Chicago, IL 60602, or contact Ald. Graham’s office at 773-261-4646.