CHICAGO — A city program asking liquor stores in Chicago's underserved communities to step up and help local children is gaining support in Englewood — and bars might be next.
The Responsible Retailer Initiative started earlier this year, and asked liquor store owners to donate between $365 and $500 to the Urban Initiative Plan, which would fund youth programs.
So far, $10,335 has been donated by liquor stores, which agreed to clean up their stores, beef up security and change the way they sell alcohol.
"This is a voluntary program that liquor store owners could participate in to show that they are a responsible businesses that want to give back to the communities they serve," said Steven Philpott, a spokesman for the retailer initiative. "To date, we have 35 [liquor store] participants who have stepped forward to conform to the recommendations the [initiative] has put forth."
Sal Tadros owns I&S Food & Liquor in Englewood with his brother, Issa, and father, Peter.
"We have been a part of the Englewood community since 1977 and have always ran a respectable business. So even before this program was started we were already giving back to the community," Sal Tadros said.
"Now, by participating in the Responsible Retailers Initiative, we can do more for the community."
Tadros said the store has given away free turkeys around Thanksgiving, and has donated Christmas toys and school supplies to area kids.
"I would challenge any liquor store other than a big franchise to say they are doing what we have been doing for years," Issa Tadros said. "Our store is clean, we have armed security and do not allow any panhandling outside the store."
The program began after aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd), Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Joann Thompson (16th) met with the Chicago Beverage Systems to discuss how they could improve the appearance of liquor stores.
The aldermen agreed to check in on participating liquor stores in their wards once a year to make sure recommendations are being followed, and to put together a scorecard that eventually would be available online for residents to view.
Recommendations by the retailer initiative include upgrading store appearance and security; modifying how products, such as beer, are sold to customers; maintaining a litter-free area within 20 feet of the store; removing any graffiti within 48 hours; and not offering drive-up or walk-up service windows.
When the initiative kicked off in January only Dowell, Sawyer and Thompson were a part. Philpott said aldermen Toni Foulkes (15th), Natasha Holmes (7th), Jason Irving (28th), Anthony Beale (9th), Emma Mitts (37th), John Pope (10th) and Will Burns (4th) have joined.
"We expect more aldermen, particularly those who are members of the [City Council's] Black Caucus, to join this year," Philpott said.
Dowell said liquor stores on the North Side and suburbs are often clean, safe and have a good appearance.
"Our communities deserve the same treatment. This is not something we are asking, this is something we are demanding," Dowell said. "I have 14 liquor stores in my ward and seven are already participating, but ideally I would like all of them to participate."
Next year, Philpott said the retailer initiative would focus on other liquor establishments.
"After we get liquor stores rolling our aim would be toward bars and other retailers that sell alcohol," Philpott said.