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Chicago Sunday Morning Liquor Ban: Bid to Start Sales at 8 a.m. Delayed

By Ted Cox | January 29, 2014 2:55pm
 A bid to start Sunday liquor sales earlier was tabled by the City Council.
A bid to start Sunday liquor sales earlier was tabled by the City Council.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

CITY HALL — A proposal to begin Sunday liquor sales at 8 a.m. was tabled in a City Council committee Wednesday over concerns it would only add to neighborhood problems involving alcohol.

Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) submitted the proposed ordinance amendment and cited how, of the 11 largest cities in the state, Chicago has the latest start to Sunday liquor sales: 11 a.m. He said the city was losing business to neighboring suburbs on Sunday morning.

"I'm all for keeping Sundays a day or worship," O'Connor said Wednesday during a meeting of the License Committee. "I don't think this changes it."

According to O'Connor, supermarket owners have complained, "It's difficult to do business in Chicago," and have cited the Sunday liquor restrictions as an example.

 Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said, "Dealing with alcohol is dealing with crime."
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) said, "Dealing with alcohol is dealing with crime."
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

O'Connor said the subject came up in talks with the owner of Tony's Finer Foods, which is about to take over the former Dominick's in his ward at Lincoln and Foster avenues.

The proposal has the support of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

"For us, this is more about the city being competitive with neighbors," said Tanya Triche, a spokeswoman for the agency. "We want to be responsive," she added, citing how, with increasingly busy Saturdays, families are "shopping more on Sundays."

Yet Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) countered that, in neighborhoods, it would only add to illicit activity. "It's the activity around the store," she said.

"We're right there together," said Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), chairman of the License Committee. "Dealing with alcohol is dealing with crime."

"Public safety in our neighborhoods is paramount," added Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). "We're not losing any business to the suburbs in the 44th Ward."

Yet Tunney proposed trying to restrict the expanded sales hours to supermarkets by imposing a limit on square footage for the store or making it a separate "incidental" license for stores that primarily sell food rather than alcohol.

O'Connor said the city's Law Department originally thought it was "more constitutionally safe" and "much more defensible" legally to extend the added Sunday hours to all stores with a package liquor license. But after Executive Legal Counsel Gregory Steadman was receptive to legislating the added restriction, O'Connor said he'd have the Law Department review it and come back with an amendment.

"I realize that a grocery store is different from a liquor store," O'Connor said, describing his own lobbying on the issue as a "soft sell."

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) wondered how restricted liquor sales on Sunday got started.

"People like to drink seven days a week, so I don't know why it's Sunday," Moreno said.

Steadman said it was the historic remnant of Blue Laws, and with some bars open until 5 a.m. on Sundays, "there's a need for maybe a cooling-off period."

Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said, if that were the case, it wasn't working in Uptown, where there's an illicit system in place selling alcohol out of cars on Sunday morning to "chronic inebriates."