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Mayor Lori Lightfoot floats move to crack down on congregating outside Chicago liquor stores

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 4/7/2020 By John Byrne and Sophie Sherry, Chicago Tribune
a bunch of items that are on display in a store: Andre Wallace, manager of Personal Liquors in the 4200 block of West Madison Street in Chicago, with Tatyanna Smith, put together an order on April 6, 2020. As a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 virus, the store and a few other liquor stores will voluntarily close early. © Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Andre Wallace, manager of Personal Liquors in the 4200 block of West Madison Street in Chicago, with Tatyanna Smith, put together an order on April 6, 2020. As a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 virus, the store and a few other liquor stores will voluntarily close early.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday said that the number of Chicagoans hanging around outside liquor stores is a problem, and floated the idea of enacting new rules to try to stop it as part of the city’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Asked about the potential need for some kind of curfew for people or businesses, Lightfoot said most Chicagoans are doing a good job of following social distancing guidelines. But she said, “We are looking at certain kinds of businesses where we are seeing an excessive amount of gathering.

a man wearing a military uniform: Chicago police wear face masks during a news conference April 6, 2020, outside Personal Liquors, in the 4200 block of West Madison Street. As a precaution against the COVID-19 virus, the liquor store will voluntarily close early. © Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Chicago police wear face masks during a news conference April 6, 2020, outside Personal Liquors, in the 4200 block of West Madison Street. As a precaution against the COVID-19 virus, the liquor store will voluntarily close early.

“As we said from the very beginning, we’re trying to educate people into compliance, but if we can’t get that, then we’ll take some additional steps,” Lightfoot said.

“Liquor stores are definitely an area of concern all over the city, so we may be taking some steps to address that,” the mayor added. “But do we need an overall curfew? I don’t think so, because the vast majority of Chicagoans, I think, have gotten the message. They’re staying home. They know that staying home saves lives and they’re compliant.

a man looking at the camera: Andre Wallace, manager of Personal Liquors, sprays the coolers with disinfectant April 6, 2020. © Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Andre Wallace, manager of Personal Liquors, sprays the coolers with disinfectant April 6, 2020.

“But there are still some entrenched places in the city where we’ve got to step up our efforts to drive home the message that you cannot congregate.”

A Lightfoot spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a question about what the mayor is considering with liquor stores.

Lightfoot has shown herself willing to crack down if she doesn’t believe residents are taking the rules against gathering outside seriously enough. On March 26, she closed Chicago’s lakefront, The 606 elevated trail and the Riverwalk.

Meanwhile, at least three liquor stores on Chicago’s West Side have agreed voluntarily to close early to encourage people to stay home.

Chicago police Deputy Chief Ernest Cato said he hopes reducing hours will stop people from congregating outside the stores. “Reducing loitering near liquor stores will lessen the strain on police resources needed to enforce distancing guidelines,” he said.

The three stores are Personal Liquors at 4241 W. Madison St., Sunset Liquors at 5921 W. Division St. and Fera’s Food & Liquor at 4265 W. Cermak Road. They will now close at 6 p.m.

Asked if cutting hours will hurt his business, Raed Bisharat, owner of Personal Liquors, said public safety was more important. “We don’t talk (about) profit, we talk about people’s lives,” Bisharat said. “People’s lives come first.”

Cato said he expects other liquor stores in other parts of the city to do the same.

“I am just very impressed with the owners in this community to actually step up like the way they’re doing," Cato said. “You’re going to see it’s not just these three stores in these three districts, this is going to start to spread because people do care.”

jebyrne@chicagotribune.com

ssherry@chicagotribune.com

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