ROGERS PARK — Sam Sadaqa pleaded with his customers to help save his neighborhood liquor store on North Sheridan Road after the alderman revealed plans that the building owner wanted him out and wanted a more upscale liquor store to replace him.
Isam's Liquor Store, a fixture at 6816 N. Sheridan Road for more than 30 years, is known for its dingy appearance and perhaps more so for Sadaqa's brother, David, who rings up the booze at night and tells bad jokes while wearing a Texas-style cowboy hat.
Sadaqa said his 10-year lease was set to expire at the end of May, but the building's owner was only willing to extend it another four months to give him some time to sell off some of his inventory.
"Why do they want to kick me out when I'm paying them [rent] on time? I have a good relationship with the alderman, the police, the community," said Sadaqa, of North Park. "We’re willing to fix up the store."
Ald. Joe Moore (49th) sent a message to the community Tuesday informing constituents that the owner of the building at the corner of Pratt Boulevard and North Sheridan Road — which includes Ciao Bell Cafe, a kebab joint and apartments — wanted to lease the space to Pradeep Patel, the owner of Wrigleyville's Gold Crown Liquors and who last year opened Red Violin Wine and Spirits on Clark Street.
The alderman said the property owner wanted to split the space in two and lease the other half to an "optical shop."
Patel would need the alderman's support to introduce a resolution to the City Council to lift a moratorium on new liquor licenses that runs from Pratt Boulevard to Lunt Avenue on both sides of Sheridan Road. The alderman noted that the moratorium, if lifted, couldn't be reinstated for a year.
Sadaqa's store isn't affected by the ban, because it's been around since before the moratorium was put in place.
Moore said Patel had agreed to sign a document similar to one he signed for his Clark Street store that would legally restrict him from selling half-pints of liquor or malt liquor like Steel Reserve 211. The agreement also restricts him from covering the storefront windows with advertisements.
"I am content and happy with the response I'm getting in the neighborhood," Patel said of his Clark Street shop. "There’s always a need for these kinds of stores that set themselves apart from the traditional liquor stores that have a bad [reputation]."
Patel said he'd name the new liquor store Green Guitar Wine and Spirits.
A public meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Ciao Bella Cafe, where the alderman hopes to hear from the community about the plans.
Sadaqa said he would attend the meeting to make a plea to the alderman, community members and representatives of the building's owner, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
"It’s for my benefit that I listen to the customers. I can meet the requirements of the owner," he said. "I don’t want to lose that store. I raised my six kids through that store."
The 56-year-old said he would agree to the same restrictions as Patel would and rehab the interior as long as a new lease was for five years. He also would agree to give up half of the space for another storefront.
"Whatever the community wants — I have to go by the community," he said. "If they want to eliminate some items, I can do that."
Sadaqa, who runs his store with his brother, said negotiations broke down between him and the building's owner in the past year.
Moore said Wednesday the building management had told him Sadaqa had been resistant to remodeling the store and that "Mr. Patel's business plan was more in keeping with the upscale image they wanted to portray."
Sadaqa said he was willing to spend $40,000 to $50,000 to remodel the space and pay an increased rent of $20 per square foot.
If Sadaqa loses the space, Moore said he'd be willing to help him move to another location in the ward if he replaced another liquor establishment, agreed to sign an agreement like Patel's and had the support of the community.
Sadaqa said he hoped it didn't come to that.
"I am willing to do whatever the community is asking of me," he said.