I am writing regarding a proposal for a new packaged goods liquor license at 6812-16 N. Sheridan (just north of Pratt). After soliciting community opinion on the proposal and hosting a community meeting, I have decided to introduce an ordinance to lift a moratorium on packaged goods liquor licenses in the 6800 and 6900 blocks of N. Sheridan. This will allow the liquor license applicant, Mr. Pradeep Patel, to apply for the license.
The final decision on whether to grant the new liquor license, however, rests with the City of Chicago’s Local Liquor Control Commissioner, Mr. Gregory Steadman. Lifting the moratorium merely gives Mr. Patel the right to apply for the license.
Below are the details of the proposal and my reasons for introducing an ordinance to lift the moratorium:
The location currently is leased by another packaged goods store, Isam’s Food and Liquors (pictured on the right). The owners of the property decided not to renew Isam’s lease and instead divide the storefront in half, leasing one-half of the storefront to the proposed packaged goods store and the other half to another retail establishment.
The potential new owner, Pradeep Patel, currently owns Red Violin Wines and Spirits at 7405 N. Clark (at Rogers) (pictured below).
In order to operate at the new address, Mr. Patel must obtain a packaged goods liquor license from the City of Chicago. Before he can apply for the license, however, the Chicago City Council must enact an ordinance to lift the moratorium on new packaged goods licenses that currently exists in the area. The moratorium extends on both sides of Sheridan Road from Pratt to Lunt. If the City Council were to lift the moratorium, it could not be re-imposed for one year.
Mr. Patel hopes to open at the Sheridan Road location a store similar to Red Violin and name it Green Guitar Wines and Spirits. He indicates he plans to remove the paper advertising signs from the windows, upgrade the inventory with higher-end wines and craft beers and eliminate some of the very cheap wines and liquor from the store inventory. He also plans to completely renovate the interior of the store in a fashion nearly identical to the interior his Red Violin store (pictured below).
Lifting a moratorium does not automatically entitle an applicant to a liquor license; it merely gives the applicant the right to apply for a license. He still must satisfy the City’s criteria for a liquor license and his application is subject to the approval of the City of Chicago’s Local Liquor Control Commissioner. The opinion of the local alderman and the community may influence the Commissioner’s decision, but the Commissioner retains final authority over whether the license will be issued.
Approximately 100 people attended a community meeting I hosted on the proposal to lift the moratorium. The overwhelming number of people who attended the meeting were customers of the existing store, Isam’s Food and Liquors. They did not express an opinion on the issue of the moratorium, but rather came to state their support for keeping Isam’s open.
Representatives of the building’s landlord also attended the meeting and stated that Isam’s lease was about to expire and that the landlord has no desire to renew Isam’s lease because of the storeowner’s refusal to improve his business. Despite this fact, most of the people who spoke at the meeting directed their comments to the issue of Isam’s lease, over which I have no control, rather than the moratorium.
My office received approximately thirty emails and phone calls on the topic of lifting the moratorium to allow Mr. Patel to apply for his liquor license, with 60% expressing support. Another dozen people offered comments to my postings about the issue on Facebook and Nextdoor, with those supporting lifting the moratorium outnumbering the opponents by a 2-1 margin.
I have decided to introduce an ordinance to lift the moratorium on packaged goods liquor licenses that exists on the 6800 and 6900 blocks of North Sheridan. I do so because I believe Mr. Patel deserves the right to make his case to the City’s Local Liquor Control Commissioner.
Mr. Patel is an experienced liquor store owner who runs eleven stores in the Chicago area, including his Red Violin store at Clark and Rogers. According to the Liquor Control Commissioner, Mr. Patel’s record is good and he has received no violations at Red Violin. Mr. Patel’s Red Violin store is a clean, responsible establishment, offering craft beers and higher-end wines and spirits.
Just as Mr. Patel’s store at Clark and Rogers has proven to be an asset to the neighborhood, I believe his proposed new store will have a similar positive impact on the business climate at Pratt and Sheridan. It is the type of business that will only further enhance the improvements already taking place at Pratt and Sheridan and is the principal reason the owners and managers of the building entered into a lease with Mr. Patel.
Mr. Patel’s exemplary track record of owning and managing eleven liquor stores with very few complaints or violations should provide a measure of comfort to those in the community who express concerns about this proposed liquor license. Nonetheless, I understand why some people are hesitant to automatically embrace this business. A liquor store that is irresponsibly managed can have a devastating effect on a neighborhood.
That is why I will ask the Liquor Control Commissioner to require Mr. Patel to sign a binding “Liquor License Plan of Operation,” agreement that will place various conditions on his license. This includes an agreement to forbid loitering outside his store; refrain from selling cheap fortified wines, cheap half-pints of distilled liquor and malt liquor; refrain from selling products associated with illicit drug use; refrain from installing security gates, accordion style gates or metal grates and keep his windows free and clear of all signage, coolers, walls or other obstructions.
In short, I will ask Mr. Patel to enter into an agreement that is identical to the agreement he entered into when he opened his Red Violin store at Clark and Rogers.
For a copy of the Red Violin agreement, click on the attachment below:
If the agreement is violated, the Liquor Control Commissioner may at his discretion impose a fine or suspend or revoke the liquor license.
A number of community residents have expressed concerns about lifting the moratorium on packaged goods licenses. They include opposition to “more” liquor stores in the community, concern that lifting the moratorium will open the door to other liquor licenses and support for the existing business, Isam’s Food and Liquor. Allow me to address those concerns below:
Opposition to “More” Liquor Stores in the Neighborhood.
This is not a matter of creating “more” liquor stores in the neighborhood; it’s one liquor store replacing another. The 49th Ward has one of the fewest packaged liquor licenses in the city–13 in total. That number will not change. And Mr. Patel’s store will be half the size of the store he replaces and arguably much nicer.
Concern that Lifting the Moratorium Could Open the Door to Other liquor licenses.
The City Council is not allowed to reimpose a liquor license moratorium until one year after it is lifted. Though it is true other individuals would have the right to apply for a packaged goods license during that one year period, it does not mean he or she would have the right to receive that license. That decision is left to the discretion of the City’s Liquor Control Commissioner and the alderman and the community would have the right to urge the Commissioner to refrain from issuing any additional licenses.
It should be noted that the City Council lifted a liquor license moratorium on the 6700 block of Clark Street a few years ago to allow an individual to purchase an existing packaged goods liquor store. During the year the moratorium was lifted, no one else attempted to apply for a liquor license in that area.
Support for Isam’s Food and Liquors.
The prevailing sentiment of those attending the community meeting last week was support for keeping Isam’s Liquors open. However, as I noted repeatedly at the meeting, the decision not to renew Isam’s lease was the building owners alone and not the alderman. The landlords were within their legal right to decline to renew Isam’s lease and it is not within my power as alderman to compel any landlord to renew the lease of a commercial tenant.
The sole issue before me is whether to introduce an ordinance to lift the moratorium to allow another potential liquor license holder to apply for a license from the City. The management company, which represented the owners at the meeting, made very clear that they will not renew Isam’s lease under any circumstances, even if Mr. Patel fails to receive his license.
It should also be noted that not everyone in the community agrees that Isam’s is a good neighbor. In fact, many of the community residents who corresponded with me on this issue applauded the fact that Isam’s was going out of business. Below is a sampling of the comments I received:
“Many people I know avoid walking past Isam’s as it is now.”
“[Isam’s] is a poorly run business that has made no effort to improve its appearance, nor run off the constant collection of unsavories that loiter outside of it.”
“Isam’s is an eyesore. The store is run down and I avoid it.”
“As a close neighbor to the existing business, I can tell you I would welcome a new business in its place. Isam’s is not a great neighbor. I have been harrassed [sic] (as have my neighbors) by loiterers outside their store.”
“The current facility Isam’s is in my view far from attractive – glad it is being replaced.”
“Anything would be an improvement over the current store.”
I believe Mr. Patel should have the ability to make his case for a liquor license to the City’s Local Liquor Control Commissioner, which is why I support lifting the moratorium. The owners of the building at the northwest corner of Pratt and Glenwood have fully vetted Mr. Patel and believe his business will be good for their building and the neighborhood as a whole.
I share that sentiment. Mr. Patel has shown himself to be a responsible businessman who runs a tight ship. People who frequent his store at Clark and Rogers are almost universal in their praise for the store.
Because I believe his proposed business on Sheridan Road will help further the revitalization of the Rogers Park business community, I will urge my colleagues on the City Council to support my ordinance lifting the moratorium on the 6800 and 6900 blocks of North Sheridan. Once the one year waiting period has elapsed, I will introduce an ordinance reimposing the moratorium.
I want to thank everyone who took the time to express their views on the proposal to lift the moratorium. I understand this is an emotional issue for many.
If you have any questions or further comments regarding my decision, please feel free to reply to this email.