CHICAGO — Residents had to be quieted several times during a heated meeting Thursday where the fate of a liquor store that has been a magnet for police calls was being considered.
About 20 community members turned out to City Hall for a second hearing on Adams Food & Liquor on 219 N. Western Ave., on the Near West Side.
"We can't play this game anymore [with] this 'cancer'," said Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who has been rallying for the store to lose its license and arranged for a bus to ensure community members could attend the hearing.
At the first meeting, on Oct. 30, residents took the property to task for three recent shootings and a stabbing in the area near the storefront, Fioretti said as meeting minutes were reviewed Thursday.
Esther Golar, a civilian CAPS coordinator speaking on behalf of the Chicago Police Department, confirmed a Nov. 12 shooting at the store's address, and said police expect a possiblity of retaliation.
The shootings are believed to have stemmed from conflicts between the TVL and Black Disciple gangs fighting "for control of the narcotics trade by 219 S. Western [Ave.]," Golar said.
The liquor store closed its doors temporarily on Nov. 23, but Anthony Peraica, an attorney representing property owner Ahmed Keshta, said that had nothing to do with the conflict between Keshta and area residents, but rather was due to Keshta's health problems and a need to regroup after firing a store manager.
Before the meeting began, Mike Quinlan, executive director of the Near West Side Chamber of Commerce, distributed photos allegedly depicting the scene at the liquor store after a November shooting, where a bus shelter was shattered by stray bullets.
Fioretti and other residents in attendance said business practices like selling loose cigarettes, and carrying "sugar and salt" products like malt liquor and junk food directly contributed to the high crime rate at the intersection of Western Avenue and Adams Street.
Peraica said that Keshta discontinued the sale of some less desireable products like high-volume liquor bottles and "low-quality" wine, hired private security for a period of time, and made other improvements after the Oct. 30 hearing.
But city attorney Jim Potter, who presided over the hearing, took Keshta to task for failing to bring documentation proving he had taken any of the "reasonable steps" prescribed at the first meeting, including attending CAPS meetings and cleaning up the store. Peraica said Keshta's recently fired store manager took that paperwork with him.
Potter urged Keshta to more quickly accomplish the list of 12 proposed areas for improvement before the next hearing, scheduled for March 14 at 11 a.m.
"I don't see even a spirit of cooperation to mitigate any of the things going on at this property," Potter said.
Fioretti and another area resident, attorney James Bosco, said community members would move for immediate revocation of the building's license at the next meeting.
At one point, Potter scolded Peraica for trying to "see the blame shifted to the police department."
"Does the owner have a responsibility to maintain the street corner, the alleys, the areas across the street?" Peraica said. "That's the responsibility of the City of Chicago."
Ald. Fioretti fired back at Peraica, whose client was mostly silent throughout the hearing but was involved in a brief, verbal altercation with a resident outside the meeting room afterward.
"You've gotta wonder what kind of owner this is," Fioretti said. "An establishment like this is a cancer on the community. He has never learned."