ROGERS PARK — The owner of a new liquor store at Clark Street and Rogers knows residents frown on businesses like his, but he insists his Red Violin Fine Wine and Liquor will be different.
"Liquor stores in Chicago have a bad reputation for ruining the neighborhood," Pradeep Patel said. "Naturally, there were people who had concerns, but luckily for me I was able to convince the alderman and the city to grant me a license to create a high-end liquor store — and they’re pretty much content with what I've made."
The store's opening last month came after months of objections by community residents.
"Why do we need another [liquor store] when you can go across the street to Walgreens or up to Dominick's to get liquor?" asked Suzanne Devane, who lives nearby and is the 49th Ward's Republican Party Committeeman. "And there’s a fine wine liquor store just down the street on Jarvis."
Notices went up earlier in the year that Patel had applied for a license at 7407 N. Clark St., prompting community members, including Devane, to voice their opposition on the website EveryBlock, prompting Ald. Joe Moore to respond.
After several meetings with his constituents and with Patel, who also owns Evanston 1st Liquor and five other liquor stores in Chicago, Moore persuaded Patel to sign a document agreeing to restrictions on what kinds of liquor can be sold and how late the store can stay open. He also agreed to not cover windows with advertisements, among other stipulations.
Patel eventually went to Chicago Liquor Control Commissioner Gregory Steadman and signed a legally binding agreement to solidify the promises.
Patel said he's heard positive feedback from the community about Red Violin, the first store for which he's had to apply for a new liquor license. Patel took over his other stores from previous owners who already had liquor licenses and only had to renovate the businesses, including Gold Crown Liquors in Wrigleyville.
While most of the 49th Ward is covered by a moratorium on liquor licenses, the area of Clark and Rogers is not, which allowed Patel to open shop.
Patel sold a Best Western Hotel in Michigan and received $400,000, which he is using to open or purchase liquor stores in Chicago, according to a June 28 email from Steadman to Moore's office that was obtained by DNAinfo Chicago. Steadman also wrote that Patel had three pending liquor licenses in the city.
Lorraine Dostal, who leads the block club in the area, said she and about 30 other neighbors wrote individual letters to Steadman, voicing their disapproval with Patel's plans.
Dostal said the store's proximity to parks and schools also upset the community.
"It seems to be a fragile location for a new liquor store," she said. "It's not like we have a shortage of places to buy booze."
Community members have also uncovered that Moore had accepted a $5,000 campaign contribution earlier this year from Patel's friend, Cherag Patel, who has the same surname but is not related.
Pradeep Patel said that although Cherag Patel had joined him at community meetings about the liquor store, Cherag Patel had nothing to do with the business at Clark and Rogers. Pradeep Patel would not comment on why the donation was made.