Volunteer community group the East Village Association voted 15-0 in favor of a resolution upholding a liquor moratoria at a membership meeting Monday.
About two-dozen residents attended, though only 15 of them put their hands up in favor of keeping the decades-old moratoria, which runs in two-block increments and bans two types of liquor licenses, come vote time. No attendee voted for removing the liquor moratoria.
In an irony not lost on some attendees, the vote took place in the beer garden at neighborhood tavern Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott.
After some introductory remarks, EVA president Neal McKnight explained the East Village Association’s purpose for discussing whether or not to lift the moratoria, which prohibit both new liquor stores and new taverns, on the bordering streets of East Village.
Because the East Village Association and previous 1st Ward Alderman Manny Flores created a series of ordinances that banned new liquor stores on the borders of the neighborhood, the people who petition for a license are also, in effect, petitioning to change the ordinance.
“What that results in is not only just for them to get a liquor license,” McKnight said. “It means that everybody that’s in the stretch that’s covered by the moratorium also gets a liquor license, or at least has the opportunity to do so.”
In other words, by lifting the moratoria for one business, the moratoria would be lifted for all businesses.
Because the East Village Association has what McKnight said were “numerous requests” from current 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno to consider alternatives or amendments, the amount of time spent by the East Village Association considering them has made the EVA’s process more inefficient and needlessly time-consuming.
“What we’re trying to do is actually focus on the business of the community, and not spend every community meeting dealing with three or four liquor applications a month, when we’d rather work on the schools,” veteran EVA member Gladys Anselmo said.
“You’re trying to vet the business owners,” McKnight said. “One of the reasons we put the moratorium in place is so we don’t have to go through this process every single time someone wants a packaged liquor license. So the alderman asked whether or not we wanted to retain [the moratoria].”
In response to the alderman, the EVA drafted a resolution upholding its support of the liquor moratoria.
The resolution was read aloud then discussed amongst the gathered members for ten minutes before ultimately passing.
“The law is on the books,” Anselmo said. “What we’re doing is re-iterating to the alderman, yet again, that we’ve looked at the law as it exists, and we’re saying ‘let the law as it exist, exist, and quit sending us three or four applications a month for review.’”
Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st ward) recently lifted the packaged-goods moratorium along Ashland Avenue, unbeknownst to the East Village Association and to their consternation, so that liquor sales could occur at a nearby CVS pharmacy.
EVA member Chris Long lambasted Moreno for going back on a campaign promise to hold public hearings on lifting liquor moratoria. (Moreno made his promise in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.)
“[Moreno] lifted it and held no public hearings whatsoever,” Long said. “He didn’t follow his word. He said there was a petition. I never saw the petition. When we confronted him about it, [Moreno allegedly] said 97 percent of the people who signed it were for lifting it.”
Signatures on a petition usually indicate the complete support for what the petitioner is petitioning.
“Why would you sign a petition for something you don’t agree with,” Long said.
Moreno introduced legislation lifting a longstanding packaged liquor moratorium on Ashland Avenue into the city council, which ultimately passed it. Doing so granted a liquor license to CVS Pharmacy. The Wicker Park Committee sent Moreno a letter expressing “extreme disappointment” about his legislation.
Some commenters on EveryBlock expressed support for the alderman’s decision, saying they were satisfied customers of CVS, and that the law was antiquated.
In an interview after the meeting, McKnight said Moreno was doing a better job of holding public meetings, and that the relationship between the alderman and the EVA had been improving after a “falling out” in the fall.
“We’ll send [the resolution] over to the alderman,” McKnight said. “We’ll see what he does with it.”
The East Village Association will not consider any requests to lift the moratoria for three years, as per the resolution.
By Jon Graef