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Taco Bell with 'Urban Design' Applies for Liquor License in Wicker

By Alisa Hauser | May 14, 2015 9:53am

WICKER PARK — Owners of a new Taco Bell have applied for a liquor license application and hope to open this summer along a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue packed with restaurants.

News that the fast food giant would replace a long shuttered cigarette and head shop at 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave. was first reported by DNAinfo in February. It was revealed on Wednesday by Eater that Taco Bell had applied for a liquor license.

A worker onsite at the future Taco Bell — neighbored by a pawn shop and a hair salon — said on Thursday that the new storefront hoped to open in two months.

Alisa Hauser says reactions have been mixed in the neighborhood:

A peek inside the under-construction Cantina at 1439 N. Milwaukee Ave. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

Rob Poetsch, a Taco Bell communications spokesman, said on Wednesday that the new Taco Bell coming to Wicker Park would feature "new urban design elements, and we will have more information available closer to our opening this Summer."

Neil Borkan, a prolific Taco Bell franchisee with 34 stores under his belt, will be leading the Wicker Park outpost, the first ever to serve booze, if the license gets approved.

Borkan's Lincolnshire-based firm, NJB Operations, is looking for workers to staff the Wicker Park eatery, according to the NJB website. Interested people can apply online.

Reaction to a Taco Bell and not the fact it will serve alcohol was the focus of one resident's concerns. 

"Everyone serves alcohol. We are a major entertainment district.  I care that there is a Taco Bell coming, not that that there is another taco spot serving alcohol. How much different is it than a Xoco or Antique Taco? I don't like the homogenization of the neighborhood when independent local businesses get squeezed out because of rising rent and we end up with Taco Bell, Asics, Dunkin' Donuts," said Kristene Richardson, a Bucktown resident.

Borkan did not immediately return calls early Wednesday.

Jonathan Fixler, the landlord and one of the building owners said, "Taco Bell is in fact moving into the space and we are very excited about what they will add to the neighborhood."

The fast food restaurant will join a host of taco options already settled into the neighborhood, including Antique Taco, less than one block south at 1360 N. Milwaukee Ave;  Kokopelli, 1324 N. Milwaukee Ave., Authentaco, 1141 N. Ashland Ave; La Pasadita, 1140 N. Ashland Ave. and the forthcoming hybrid BAOCOS.

Taco Bell also sits within a block of Rick Bayless' Xoco, which serves tacos and other Mexican fare at 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave and a few blocks from Big Star, 1531 N. Damen Ave.

A notice informing passers-by of Cantina Chicago's incidental liquor license application.  [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]

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