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Hung Out to Dry


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Dear editor/Neal Pollack;

I read the recent article on the fight over liquor licensing taking place in many Chicago communities [October 2]. It seems that the gentrification of the city will only increase the incidence of conflict between new residents and existing businesses. It is worth remembering that living in the city is not the same as living in the suburbs, nor should it be. If people do not want to live near bars or liquor stores, they may want to consider the proximity of such places when deciding to move into the city. It is worth noting an article in the Sun-Times Monday, October 5, describing movements in the suburbs to go wet in order to attract businesses.

Dry precincts will be precincts that lack good restaurants, groceries, and other businesses that serve or sell alcohol. Voting precincts dry also increases the zoning of the city such that people who want to have a good meal or purchase a bottle of wine will have to travel further and pay more to get it. Downtown businesses and amusement venues like Navy Pier or River North must love vote-dry movements because they simply send customers in their direction.

What is unclear to me is why the vote-dry ordinances are structured the way they are. It would seem that nuisance businesses that sell to underage persons or that tolerate drug and gang activity should be dealt with by the police, not necessarily by the liquor licensing commission. If neighbors identify a problem business, they should seek to have the owners and operators arrested, not try and eliminate liquor from the neighborhood. Also, it seems that the ordinance should require a higher percentage of votes to make a precinct dry than it does to get rid of a problem business, since the numbers affected are likely to be so much greater and because the economic impact more widespread.

Finally, it seems that owners of businesses closed when a precinct is voted dry should have grounds to sue the city under the "just compensation" clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In essence, when the city supports vote-dry movements, it is using the power of the state to take away someone's business "for public use." It should have to compensate the owners when it does so. Has anyone pursued this legal argument?

Brian White

Rogers Park

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