LITTLE ITALY — Want to "be like Mike?" You might want to look somewhere other than Taylor Street.
Mike Sharma has been trying to open a liquor store in Little Italy for months, and he finally won the community's support after agreeing to a number of conditions — including dumping the name Mike's Wine and Spirits.
The name that won the blessing of one longtime neighborhood group? Michael's Wine and Spirits.
"They said Mike sounds way too ghetto," said Sharma, who already owns Mike's Liquor and Tobacco in suburban Rosemont. "I said, 'Well that’s my name.' At the time, I tried to argue it, but my hands were tied with everything else going on so I had to accept it."
University Village Association Executive Director Kathy Catrambone said her organization pushed for the name change to make the shop sound "classier."
Sharma had gone through two community meetings to get approval for his proposed store at 1455 W. Taylor St.
The shop was officially approved by the city’s zoning department on Nov. 19, but only after Sharma agreed to two pages of restrictions, including limits on prices, types of liquor sold, sizes of liquor bottles, hours of operation — and the name change.
In addition, Sharma agreed that he wouldn’t sell the business for 10 years.
“I had five minutes to agree or disagree,” Sharma said of the restrictions, which were presented by Ald. Jason Ervin (28th).
“After it was over, my wife told me, ‘You dealt with it, you came out on top, now focus on your business and being successful in the community,' " said Sharma, who has lived in the neighborhood for seven years.
Ervin could not be reached for comment.
At an Oct. 17 community meeting, residents were divided over the need for a liquor store in the neighborhood, with Catrambone saying she had gathered more than 300 letters and signatures opposing the shop.
Her group pushed for many of the restrictions on Sharma’s store, using longtime Taylor Street wine store, Gentile’s, as a model for those limitations.
The owner of Gentile's is on the board of the University Village Association, which was founded by longtime neighborhood powerbroker Oscar D'Angelo.
The group in the past vigorously fought the opening of a tattoo parlor, which led other businesses on the street to post signs in their windows in support of owner Keith Underwood. Taylor Street Tattoo finally opened in 2004 after years of city hearings and even a lawsuit trying to stop it.
Michael’s Wine and Spirits must keep the same hours as Gentile’s: noon-10 p.m. Mondays to Wednesdays, noon-11 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. on Sundays. Any cigarettes sold at the shop must be priced over $10 and the shop can't carry any single servings of beer under 24 ounces that cost less than $4.75, nor can it carry any wines under $7.75.
Dennis O’Neill, who heads a competing neighborhood group that supports the shop, said he looks forward to having the store in the neighborhood.
“It will be a good thing because we need professionally run businesses on Taylor Street,” he said. “I believe Mike when he says he’s going to abide by what he says he’s going to do.”
Sharma said he plans to open his shop, which he said would have a large craft beer selection, by spring.