LITTLE ITALY — Residents were mostly opposed to a proposed liquor store on Taylor Street, saying at a community meeting Wednesday that the neighborhood was already saturated with restaurants and bars.
“The last thing we need is more alcohol. To me, as a young person, it’s just going to bring in the kind of people I don’t want to see in this neighborhood,” Rush University student Sherri O’Brien said during a hearing attended by about 30 community members at STEM Elementary Wednesday evening.
Many at the meeting echoed O’Brien’s feelings, pointing to existing liquor options like Gentile’s Wine Shop at 1160 W. Taylor St. and Lucky’s Liquors, Jewel-Osco and Costco on Ashland south of Roosevelt Road.
Zach Abel, a STEM parent, said he was concerned about the proximity of the shop to the elementary school.
"Having a liquor store in a neighborhood where you have children going to school is not in the best interests of the school," he said.
But Wendy Posnock, part owner of the building where the liquor shop wants to locate, said the space at 1455 W. Taylor St. has been vacant for more than a year. Dennis O'Neill, executive director of the neighborhood group Connecting4Communities, said having any business was better than an empty storefront.
“Places going out of business is also real as well, because it makes the street look less vibrant,” O’Neill said. “And Taylor Street has struggled with that for a long time.”
Mike Sharma, who wants to open the proposed shop, stressed that he was not looking to bring a low-cost liquor store to the area. His shop would have craft beers and higher price points, he said.
Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), who moderated the meeting, said price and hours of operation were both important factors to consider and would affect the kind of customers Sharma’s shop would attract.
“There’s a crowd associated with a $2 beverage that’s different from a crowd associated with a $10 beverage. That’s two different types of individuals,” Ervin said.
When Sharma met with the University Village Association community group earlier this month, he agreed to reduce the store’s operation hours, opening daily at noon instead of 10 a.m.
Despite that gesture, the association expressed vocal opposition to the shop Wednesday night.
“One of the first things Mike said is this is something the neighborhood needs and we disagree,” said Kathy Catrambone, University Village Association executive director who also emphasized that Gentile’s is already operating on Taylor.
Posnock pointed out at the meeting that Gentile’s owner, Flavio Gentile, sits on the University Village Association board of directors.
Catrambone acknowledged Gentile’s position on the board but said that in no way influenced the association’s decision to oppose the liquor shop.
Despite opposition from a majority of residents in the room to the shop, Ervin said there would be another community meeting to address the liquor store's status. That meeting will be held at STEM at 6 p.m. Oct. 30.