Liquor referendum falls short of store closures

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One community group failed to get a referendum on the Feb. 22 ballot that could have forced the closures of a liquor store in the Bronzeville community.

One community group failed to get a referendum on the Feb. 22 ballot that could have forced the closures of a liquor store in the Bronzeville community.

Mell Monroe, president of the Bronzeville Area Residents’ & Commerce Council, a non-profit organization that serves condominium owners, renters, homeowners and commercial enterprises, spearheaded the referendum drive against Calumet Food & Liquors. He said despite the 258 signatures turned in only 126 were deemed valid, falling short of the 136 signatures needed from registered voters living in the 11th precinct.

“(There were) excellent lawyers who found technicalities for getting signatures tossed out,” Monroe said. “(The lawyers) used technical things like a person signing the petition using their nickname instead of their legal name as a way to invalidate signatures.”

Apostolic Faith Church, 3823 S. Indiana Ave., collected over 300 signatures for the referendum to close Rothschild but at Defender press time it was not known how many signatures were ruled valid.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said she was disappointed the referendum did not make the February 22 ballot. But under a proposed agreement, liquor stores located in her ward would stop selling such alcoholic drinks as Wild Irish Rose wine and Colt 45 malt liquor beer.

“I supported (the referendum) and we will continue to have dialogue with the owners to see if they will participant in the agreement,” she said. “These alcoholic drinks are relatively cheap and easy to buy from simply begging on the street for change. Patrons will purchase these drinks and when they are done they would throw their bottles and cans on the ground littering up the community.”

Still, Calumet Food & Liquors, 315 E. 43rd St., and Rothschild Liquor Mart, 124 E. Pershing Road, have voluntarily stopped selling inexpensive beer and wine.

In October Calumet stopped selling wine and malt liquor beer including 40-ounces, said store manager Kamel Fakhouri.

And while Rothschild does still sell some inexpensive spirits, ultimately it plans to stop once it liquidates its remaining inventory, said a Rothschild manager, who declined to give his name.

The community played a big part in getting these changes instituted, said Fakhouri.

“The community made it clear that they did not want us to continue selling those items so we stopped,” he told the Defender. “Did we take a hit in our business? Of course, but we want to work with the community so we made the necessary adjustments.”

Fakhouri said he would not be signing the voluntary agreement drafted by Dowell to stop selling “cheap” liquors.

“She tried to close us down, so why sign her agreement now?” said Fakhouri. “Especially since we did it on our own.”

The agreement was presented to 12 liquor stores and nine agreed to participate. So far, only four have actually signed the agreement, according to Dowell.

The nine stores are Hyde Park Food & Liquor, 126 E. 51st St., Vegas Food & Liquor, 330 E. Pershing Road, 200 Liquors, 204 E. 47th St., Zaid Certified Foods, 513 E. 47th St., Sunrise Supermarket, 549 E. Pershing Road, Jardan Food & Liquor, 317 E. Garfield Blvd., Red Apple Food & Liquor, 317 E. 51st St., Aristo Food & Liquor, 307 E. 47th St., and Woods Foods & Liquor, 300 E. 35th St., which is Black-owned.

Rothschild, located in the 33rd precinct, also declined to participate in Dowell’s liquor agreement.

The next election a referendum could be added to the ballot to shutter the stores is in 2012.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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