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Rotting Produce and Crime Plague Near West Side Grocer, Alderman Says

By Chloe Riley | February 19, 2013 6:10am

NEAR WEST SIDE — Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) is so adamant about closing down the controversial Adam Foods & Liquors on the Near West Side that he's going after a nearby grocery store also run by Adam's new managers.

While the liquor store faces a hearing later this month that could lead it to lose its license, Fioretti said the grocery store, Sonia Food Mart, is not up to community standards, either. He went as far as to shoot an amateur video of the produce available at the store at 205 S. Western Ave. earlier this month to make his point.

“Would you eat this?” Fioretti can be heard saying in the recording as he handles spoiled and bruised vegetables.

Fioretti said he shot the video to show the store's new owners aren't really serious about providing decent businesses for the community and are just out to make a buck.

But Faye Masoud, who owns both stores with her husband, said she didn't understand why Fioretti is focusing on Sonia's when the liquor store is what has riled the community. She said they have done much to improve Adam, 219 S. Western Ave., since they started managing it in December.

"He should have more important things to do than go in grocery stores and take video," Masoud said. "It’s legal to sell liquor. We’re not selling drugs. Gun violence is the real problem — and gangs."

In November, three people were shot in front of the liquor store, and in March a man was stabbed to death. Residents and business owners also have complained about people drinking and causing trouble in front of the store.

Masoud said when she first walked into the shop with Fioretti at the end of last year, she couldn’t believe the state of things.

“I said to the alderman, ‘Damn, I don’t blame you.’ Because when I walked in here the place was disgusting. The glass, the floor. It was sickening to walk in,” she said.

But since then, the couple said they’ve cleaned up the store, hired a security guard from the neighborhood and added surveillance cameras, both inside and outside, by an alley.

They said they also keep a log of phone calls they make to police about loiterers and regularly call 311 to clean up graffiti in the empty lot next door. 

“When we say we’re going to do something, we do it,” Masoud said. “We’re going with whatever the community wants us to do.”

But Fioretti doesn't believe they've gone far enough, and said the changes are mainly cosmetic.

"It's liquor stores like this that attract gangs and drugs and those types of elements," Fioretti said.

Mike Quinlan, the Near West Side Chamber of Commerce executive director, said the store should lose its license. He said the renovations were cheaply done: A new sign initially said "Adam Foods & Loquors" before it was fixed.

“It’s a business that’s lost all good faith,” he said. “The community will be asking for it to close down. The modest changes that they’ve made … they’re all 11th-hour.”

So far, there have been two community hearings regarding the liquor store. The final meeting on Feb. 27 eventually could lead to the revocation of the store’s liquor license.

The couple also owns the business at 229 S. Western Ave., which once housed Felony Franks, another controversial business that tangled with Fioretti.

Fioretti said he didn't like what he said was a negative message conveyed by Felony Franks, a hot dog stand staffed by ex-criminals, which closed last summer even after the owner won a battle with the city over its sign. Felony Franks' owner said the time and expense lost to that battle, along with the undesirable clientele that hung out near the liquor store and spilled onto his lot, forced him to shut down.

Masoud said because of all the time they've spent fixing up the liquor store, they haven't been able to open a planned new restaurant at the site.

She said if everything goes well at the upcoming community meeting about the liquor store, they hope to have a new restaurant— Jackson Fish and Chicken — open by March.