Edgewater: Dry Chicago

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Last Friday afternoon, I raced from the office to Sun Liquors in Edgewater hoping to score the last Budweiser tall boy ever sold there -- a trophy marking another part of Chicago where you can't buy a cold one any more.


But the cops got there first. Rogers Park district Cmdr. Bruce Rottner and a sergeant slapped an orange sign on the door that read, "Voted Dry," then walked across the street to Granville Liquors and did the same there.

In 2003, voters in the 32nd precinct of the 48th Ward passed a referendum to stop liquor sales on that corner, tired of the trouble that lingers around there. After four years of legal appeals the Illinois Supreme Court sided with them.

For folks who live near Granville and Winthrop -- a corner overrun by drunks, loiterers, drug dealers and prostitutes -- the orange stickers were victory banners.

Some neighbors even went out to applaud the police, while a few drunks strolled by complaining that now they have to walk a few more blocks to get their booze.

That's how life is in our city of neighborhoods -- cross an imaginary boundary line, and the rules change. We like it that way. It gives us a little control of our neighborhoods and keeps outsiders guessing.

The best example of Chicago's strange booze boundaries is probably the stretch of Western in Beverly that doubles as the route of the South Side Irish Parade. The west side of Western -- a drinker's paradise, lined with taverns from Sean's Rhino Bar and Cork & Kerry to The Dubliner and Cullinan's Stadium Club.

The east side of the street -- bone dry. For generations, the dry precincts east of Western have kept corner taverns and liquor stores from popping up near the stately homes of rich folks, who might enjoy a drink but don't have to deal with the drunks.

Whether you enjoy the occasional cold one has little to do with why 179 ward precincts are completely dry, and bars and taverns aren't allowed in other parts of town though you can still pick up a bottle or six-pack from a grocery store.

The Edgewater neighbors who were celebrating on Friday aren't all teetotalers. They just got tired of problems that would creep up around the liquor stores.

For five years, Barb Sloan says she watched the action from her front window. Blatant, open drug dealing. Prostitutes enticing johns. Pimps and drunks wasting the day sipping 24-ounce beers, then passing out in front of her building. She took pictures and showed the police.

Pat Sharkey, the lawyer who argued the neighborhood's case before the State Supreme Court, was afraid to let her daughter walk the few blocks to school "without tripping over prostitutes and drug users."

And Peter List, who lives in an apartment overlooking the corner, said he couldn't walk his dog on the liquor-store side of the street at night. Too many people urinate in public around there. He called the cops on dealers and people acting like fools more times than he can count.

"I just hope this helps," List says of his newly dry precinct. "I get tired of calling the cops five or six times a night."

It was the same way in Roseland back in 1998, when Ald. Anthony Beale and the Rev. James Meeks backed referendums to vote much of the 9th Ward dry. Nine years later, the community is better for it, Beale says.

"The immediate effect you saw was we had 29 less liquor establishments police had to worry about on any given day, because the people hanging out and [selling] drugs out front had no reason to be there when the place is shut down," he says. "Now crime has declined tremendously. . . . We have the opportunity to show off our community to developers who otherwise wouldn't take a look."

Edgewater is on the opposite end of town, but people who live near Granville and Winthrop say they felt just as victimized. They got fed up and did something about it.

The day after the corner went dry, a few angry "thuggy looking" guys were still hanging out, Sharkey says. But since then, there's a lot less screaming and cavorting in front of Sloan's place.

Norm Cratty says he's noticed fewer panhandlers and people drinking from brown-paper bags.

"We'll see if things are worse or better in a week," Cratty says.

But Granville Liquors owner Sam Mashni says all neighbors did was cripple his family-owned store. Going dry won't hurt the business of illicit street-corner entrepreneurs, he says.

"I'm not selling liquor, but the dope dealers who are the real problem are still out there doing their thing, selling their dope," Mashni said while manning the cash register Monday. "I'm just the scapegoat."

Maybe he's right. Neighbors hope he's not. They'll be watching from their windows to see.

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3 Comments

We had a HUGE row between a couple of the local people with mental/emotional issues and someone who lives in the subsidized apartments next to G.F.L. The woman went TOTALLY o.c.... it took at least four officers to restrain her, they had to bring a paddy wagon, etc. I shot video of it (my little handheld digital camcorder has a night setting which takes fewer frames per second... also effectively widening the aperture...) which I posted to YouTube. I f you or someone else at your paper would like to see it, the easiest way is to go to my blog frankenlist.blogspot.com, I have the videos embedded there. The talk on the street is that they were "graduates" of the Wincrest home up the block. Wincrest is a nursing home whose residents are primarily people with mental/emotional/social/substance abuse problems. A lot of the worst winos came from there... one time I saw a guy from there come down in a wheel chair, get his booze, drink it on the sidewalk, then hobble over to the place where Sam's store adjoins the fence around the new bldg. I was more scared for him than anything, I thought he was going to break his neck! Likewise, a lot of the most persistent and scary panhandlers are Wincrest residents... I had one follow me almost all the way home from Walgreen's after dark a year ago... that REALLY creeped me out!

Norm C. sent me an email about the story, so when I got back from taking my wife for her weekly migraine pain shot, I went over to Sam's to see if I could buy one from him. He doesn't stock the S.T. during the week though, so he gave me fifty cents to go down to the newsstand at the "L" stop to get one for him too. As I say on my blog, I've got no issue with Sam per se. I talk with him most every day, he and his family are good folk. But I have already noticed a MARKED decline in the late night fights and I haven't had to walk around a sleeping wino to get to my building since at least Sunday.

Humorously, the Bleeding Heart of Rogers Park blogged about it a week ago already and had a picture of me with my dogs in which they called me "Kent the big gay dog walker." I got a real kick out of that! (Hey, it takes big brass balls for a guy to wear a skirt, and if you can't roll with a bit of that kind of thing, you shouldn't be doing it!) People think I'm gay all the time, and I take is a compliment. One of the reasons we chose Edgewater to live in is we've always enjoyed the company of people who are eclectic and open mind. I did post a comment explaining that no, I was married, that my wife is all for my skirts and kilts, etc. But I got such a kick out of it, I adapted it as my new "nome de plume"

Anyway, thanks again for the excellent write up... let me know if the videos prove worth while to you folks there. After I shot them, I looked for a way to submit them to the local media, but couldn't find any. One bit that might make this something that someone really ought to pursue is that one of the residents of the apartment bldg where the altercation took place was accusing the police of brutality. The hundred odd people (some of whom had heard the yelling over a block away) didn't think so, but this could turn into something if she finds the right lawyer.

- Peter / Kent du Papillon

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on May 11, 2007 8:44 AM.

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