Bid for liquor license dropped


by BRIAN NADIG

In the face of opposition by residents, 7-Eleven has withdrawn its application for a license to sell package liquor package at its store at at Northwest Highway and Sayre Avenue.

Liquor sales at a full-service grocery store would be a better option for Downtown Norwood Park than granting a liquor license to a convenience mart, according to some of the residents at a Nov. 20 community meeting held by Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st).

Only one of the approximately 40 residents at the meeting spoke in favor of granting a liquor license to the 7-Eleven store. The store would have become the first business along the Northwest Highway corridor between Harlem Avenue and Nagle Avenue to sell package liquor.

The same store applied for a liquor license in 2007, about a year after a ban on the sale of alcohol in the area was lifted, and at the time the Local Liquor Control Commission denied the application due to the community concerns. The store recently changed from a franchise to corporate store.

A police officer said at the meeting that late-night liquor sales would be harmful to the community. "If you put out ‘no loitering’ signs, who is going to enforce?" the officer said "There is no beat car on midnights."

The day after the meeting O’Connor wrote a letter to the commission objecting to the application. "The voters in the surrounding community voted less than 10 years ago to make this precinct ‘wet,’ with the understanding that this change would bring in restaurants and new life to the business district," O’Connor wrote. "At the time, they were assured that this change would not involve packaged goods sales. Due to the seriousness of the concerns expressed by the community, I cannot support the issuance of a packaged goods license at 7-Eleven at this time."

O’Connor asked residents if they would support the sale of alcohol at a grocery store like Duke’s Fresh Market, 6165 N. Northwest Hwy., and several said they would be open to the idea because the store closes at 9 p.m. and attracts fewer teens than 7-Eleven. Duke’s has not contacted the alderman about applying for a liquor license, according to an aldermanic aide.

Some residents called for a referendum drive to make the precinct "dry" if the commission approves the license application. There is a moratorium on the issuance of packaged liquor licenses in portions of Norwood Park but not at the 7-Eleven site.

7-Eleven community relations manager Charlene Brandt told residents that the store would not sell half pints of liquor and would limit displays to behind the counter and a locked refrigerator that a store employee could unlock with a remote control device. Brandt said that individual cans of beer would be limited to "higher-end" brands and would be no smaller than 24 ounces.

Brandt said that those conditions would be included in a rider that would be attached to the store’s license and that store employees would be required to complete a training program on the sale of all age-restricted products. "Anybody who looks 30 years or younger is going to get carded," she said.

Brandt distributed an inventory sheet from a nearby 7-Eleven that showed that the sale of alcohol accounts for 2.3 percent of the store’s sales. She said that 7-Eleven sells liquor at its stores as a convenience to its customers and "by no means are we a liquor store."

Several residents objected to the sale of individual cans and said that the planned hours of liquor sales, which would take place from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to midnight on Sundays, are too long. O’Connor said that additional restrictions, such as a reduction of liquor-sale hours, could be sought.

Concerns also were expressed about the ability of store workers to monitor the liquor in the store and to make sure that liquor is not sold to minors or after 2 a.m. Several residents said that the store often does not have enough employees working and that the store has a high employee turnover rate.

O’Connor wrote in her letter that residents are worried about the store’s "transient employee base" and the ability of employees to "enforce age restrictions on sales, especially during evening and late-night hours."


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