KENWOOD — Jamaica Foods has been shut down and all of its licenses revoked for not complying with a city plan to clean up the liquor store.
“It was an epicenter for all things bad on 43rd Street,” said Ald. Will Burns (4th), who has worked to close down the liquor store and restaurant at 4252 S. Cottage Grove Ave. since taking office in 2011.
On May 29, Jamaica Foods' business license, liquor license, tobacco license and food license were all revoked. Owner Salah “Sam” Joudeh has until June 19 to appeal to save the business he’s run since Harold Washington was mayor, according to the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
“I’m not going to appeal; to hell with it, I’m 65,” Joudeh said.
Joudeh said many of the complaints against him were trumped-up and Burns was targeting his business to look like he was cleaning up 43rd Street.
Burns said the front of Joudeh’s store has long been a hot spot for loitering, prostitution, drug-dealing and other crime.
He said that in 2012 he sent a representative to the store to make sure Joudeh had stopped selling the fortified wine and high-gravity beer he had promised to take off the shelves.
“He came back with a bottle of malt liquor,” Burns said of the man he sent to the store. “He told me inside the store there were people rolling joints and selling weed.”
The alleged incident sparked renewed action from Burns and city building inspectors, who shut the store down from Oct. 22, 2013, to Jan. 10.
Joudeh is still smarting from the clash.
“How could I allow people to sell drugs in my store?” Joudeh asked. “He’s a liar.”
Two years later, Joudeh is still demanding Burns produce the joint he allegedly bought.
“I flushed it down the toilet,” Burns said.
Joudeh said Tuesday he’s done fighting Burns and will accept that his business is closed and take time to visit his 85-year-old mother in Israel.
“I didn’t deserve this from the alderman,” Joudeh said.
He said his lawyer estimated a court battle to keep the licenses would cost $10,000 or more.
“They told me you can’t fight City Hall,” Joudeh said.
Burns said he now has the long task ahead of him of attracting new businesses to former Jamaica Foods storefronts, and the Cricket Wireless store he is convinced was driven out by the activity in front of the liquor store.
“What kind of area is it where it’s too rough for a Cricket?” Burns said. “I think Jamaica Foods leaving will attract people back to that corner.”
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