Entrepreneurs looking to open a new liquor store or bar near the Belmont Avenue CTA train station in Lake View better think twice, because getting a liquor license will be close to impossible.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and the Chicago City Council recently passed a moratorium on liquor licenses on about 10 blocks surrounding the train station. It’s just one thing area officials are doing to tackle crime in the area, according to Tunney’s Director of Community Outreach Erin Duffy.
“It was officially passed on Nov. 15, and it’s on new packaged goods and tavern licenses,” Duffy said. “Taverns are basically bars that don’t sell food, and ‘packaged goods’ has to do with liquor stores. We just don’t need more liquor stores there. … It has been a problem area, and we’ve had a lot of issues surrounding liquor. Some of the neighbors in the area have just wanted to see a change on that.”
The specific blocks now included in the moratorium include:
- Belmont Avenue from Clark Street to Racine Avenue
- Clark Street from Buckingham Place to Fletcher Avenue
- Sheffield Avenue from School Street to Barry Avenue
Tunney’s Chief of Staff Bennett Lawson said the ward’s been discouraging liquor in this area now for 10 years. The moratorium will just officiate what they’ve already been pushing.
“For many years we have stood with the community and have fought new liquor stores and taverns in the area,” Tunney said in a statement. “This move solidifies our efforts and will give us more tools moving forward.”
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Six months worth of wiggle room has been given to existing businesses on the streets affected by the new moratorium. Business owners can sell their business, re-apply for the liquor license or expand their business if they file an application within six months without the new rules having any affect.
From that point forward, no other people will be allowed to open a tavern or liquor store in the designated areas.
And while the move is intended to increase safety and reduce crime at the hot spot—found by police to be an active gang territory—some neighbors are worried the new rule might repel business owners looking to set up shop in Lake View, or reduce a storefront’s property value to owners who might want to sell.
Lawson said a new liquor delivery business called Beer Run applied for a license and was declined. Owner Tony Wojo is applying for the license in Bucktown instead.
“Ninety-nine percent of our victims are people who went out drinking. ... if they walk home intoxicated, they make a really good victim.”
“The owner is a nice guy, and we don’t have any issues with them,” Lawson said. “We just have opposed new liquor stores, packaged and tavern, pretty consistently in this area.”
Tunney’s statement says the new rule doesn’t restrict new restaurants from setting up shop in the area, so residents need not worry about that. However, it does “significantly restrict” the transfer of existing liquor-selling businesses to new owners, outside very specific exceptions, like between spouses.
And police are stepping up their game in the area, too. According to Commander Elias Voulgaris, District 19 has the most liquor licenses in all of Chicago. That’s why he’s launching a new “entertainment detail” focused on keeping the peace where people party.
“We’d like to have more arrests and few incidents in general,” Sgt. Jason Clark said. “Ninety-nine percent of our victims are people who went out drinking. A lot of our streets are really dark, and if they walk home intoxicated, they make a really good victim.”