CITY HALL — As old Chicago businesses shut down or struggle for survival, one alderman is hoping a new ordinance will keep "unique" neighborhood gems alive.
"As commercial rents go up, legacy businesses close their doors, Chicago loses jobs and we're all poorer for the process," said Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who intends to submit the Legacy Business Ordinance at Wednesday's City Council meeting. "There's affection for legacy businesses. There's a sentimentality and a fondness for legacy businesses."
In Old Town alone, which is part of his majorly gerrymandered ward, Hopkins said legacy businesses ranged from the House of Glunz, a multi-generation wine store, to the Second City. He also pointed to the Greek Corner Cafe in Ukrainian Village, as well as the well-publicized recent troubles of the Jazz Record Mart in River North and the Double Door in Wicker Park.
Under Hopkins' proposal, 300 businesses a year would be eligible to be nominated as "legacy businesses." They would have to have been open 30 years, financially solvent, current on their lease and without any debts to the city.
They would then become eligible for grants in the amount of $500 an employee, up to 100 employees, or $450 a square foot of rental space.
According to Hopkins, they'd be paid out of a fund raised through "modest increases" in annual business license fees of $2-$5, which would generate $3-$5 million a year. The list would be maintained and eligibility determined by the Department of Planning and Development.
Hopkins said the measure is aimed at "preserving the unique business institutions that have long provided jobs and identity to many of Chicago's communities."
Hopkins said eight aldermen have already signed on with their support, before the ordinance has even been formally submitted. "Everyone I've talked to has expressed support for this," he added.
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