How can you build a solid house if your contractor is setting small fires in the basement?
How can a community continue to find the energy and resources to build and to improve its quality of life when it must expend so much of its limited capital on fixing unnecessary problems created by those entrusted with its safekeeping?
For years, additional package good stores were prohibited on a stretch of Madison Street until the 29th Ward alderman took action to remove the barrier. Ald. Deborah Graham, on Sept. 12, 2012, sponsored an amendment to Section 4-60-023 of the Municipal Code of Chicago to allow additional package goods licenses on Madison Street.
Convenience for You, operated by Farrah Monroe, submitted an application on Dec. 4, 2012 to the Local Liquor Commissioner, Greg Steadman, to operate what can become the second liquor store in the 5300 block of West Madison Street. Austin residents were given notice of this activity in an AustinTalks newsletter. Read the full article “New liquor store likely coming to West Madison.”
It is difficult to identify positive community benefits from the addition of another liquor store. Much has been written about the harmful impact of liquor stores and particularly a concentration of them. Consider just two examples that follow:
“These locations often harbor drug dealers and street gang members and become a cancer on the community,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times. Read the Chicago Sun-Times article, “Mayor says problem liquor stores a ‘cancer,’ proposes crackdown,” where he describes his effort, with the chief of police, to close liquor stores.
According to research issued by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, a number of studies have found that in and near neighborhoods where there is a high density of places that sell alcohol, there is a higher rate of violence. That is, when bars, liquor stores and other businesses that sell alcohol are close together, more assaults and other violent crimes occur. Read the statistics in the full paper as published here.
We wonder whether the taxes generated by the operation of a package good store offset the known costs to the community such as:
- Making the area less attractive for other major businesses and employers looking for a place to open
- Increasing the volume of garbage collected
- Increasing the demand for police, jail and emergency room services
Residents who live on streets which intersect Madison Street talk about their long, protracted battles with liquor store operators over the negative impact of the stores. Residents spoke of the noise, violence, traffic, filth and loitering. They invested years conducting community meetings with the police, circulating petitions and calling 911. With resignation and frustration, they point to some success a few years ago with the elimination of a liquor store from the corner of Austin Boulevard and Madison Street.
On Jan. 14 at 2:30 p.m., we walked in front of the existing liquor store located at 5318 W. Madison St., Perfect Food and Liquor. We couldn’t walk in a straight line because of the discarded liquor bottles and cans, along with other trash, strewn about every two to three feet.
Some residents are taking action. They have had to turn their energy away from seeking community economic development and beautification projects to put out this potential fire in their home, their community.
They have sent letters to the Local Liquor Commissioner and asked their neighbors to do the same. They have prepared petitions. They have called Graham’s office to let her know of their opposition to the addition of another package good store.
More must be done now. We must submit formal objections to the Local Liquor Commissioner by Jan. 19. You can send in a simple statement of your objection to another liquor license to:
Local Liquor Commissioner
Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
121 N. LaSalle St., Room 805
Chicago, IL 60602
We must continue to let Graham know of our objections. She could benefit from hearing directly from constituents about their expectations. Action on her part can save the community from having to spend so much of its energy and resources in a protracted battle.