LOGAN SQUARE — Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) is so determined to ensure that city officials hear residents' complaints about a neighborhood convenience store that he's willing to beef with another alderman about it and even offer those residents a ride to City Hall.
More than a dozen neighbors of Armitage Food convenience store showed up to a city hearing about the store Tuesday morning that could result in it losing its business license.
Complaints included public drinking, urinating and defecating in alleys, sexual harassment, intimidation and broken glass everywhere.
To add insult to injury, the store hired an alleged gang member who allows his gang buddies to hang out and further intimidate neighbors in response to their requests for a security guard, they said.
"I've had four of these cases in four years, and this is by far the worst as far as community complaints," Moreno said.
Residents also were concerned that the store is between two schools — Ames Middle School and Funston Elementary School.
"It's right in between two schools, so it's like a gauntlet, a criminal gauntlet the kids have to walk through," said Eric Hudson, who lives a few blocks away.
Though the liquor store technically sits in Ald. Roberto Maldonado's (26th) ward, the alley behind the store and many of the affected neighbors' homes are in Moreno's ward.
Neighbors said Maldonado has ignored their complaints, but Maldonado said there is no evidence the store is a nuisance.
He did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Moreno has come to the rescue as neighbors see it, filing a formal complaint against the store and starting "deleterious impact" proceedings against it.
He even offered transportation for Tuesday's meeting from Weegee's Lounge, a bar a few doors down from Armitage Food owned by Alex Huebner, one of the convenience store's most vocal critics.
Huebner ended up hiring the two private cars that transported residents to the City Hall meeting.
"It's something I as a business owner and community member wanted to provide," he said. "Public transportation can be difficult from Logan Square and we thought we might have elderly folks that would have difficulty on the bus and train."
Huebner, who volunteers as the police beat's CAPS facilitator as well as an Ames Local School Council member, also provided coffee and doughnuts to those who showed up before 9 a.m. to hitch a ride.
When all was said and done, Moreno, Huebner and other residents said they were optimistic that Armitage Food's management would follow through on city attorney Vera Elue's suggested improvements, including hiring a uniformed security guard from a reputable firm, opening later to deter early morning drinkers, not selling alcohol to those who were obviously intoxicated, and selling off its "big bang for a little buck" alcoholic products within 30 days.
The store's owner, Ambreen Qadir of north suburban Lincolnwood, couldn't attend the meeting because he was serving jury duty, the store's lawyer said, but the business's manager, Nazeer Chaudry, said the store would do its best to address the complaints.
"Definitely I'm going to change whatever I see that's not good for the community," he said.
The store will be discussed again at a meeting at 10 a.m. May 20 at City Hall in room 805.