LINCOLN PARK — A proposed liquor store seeking to open in a former North Halsted Street storefront confronted a neighborhood critic before the Zoning Board of Appeals Friday, but also got support from a commissioner with ties to the restaurant industry.
Bhupendra Patel is looking to open Liquor Expo, a "boutique store" selling alcohol, at 2154 N. Halsted St., former home of the Calvin Tran women's clothing store.
But local resident Blair Hughes testified that it would have a "significant adverse impact" on the area.
"It's a very quiet area of Halsted," he said. "I believe that this change will increase vandalism and crime."
Commissioner Sam Toia, however, immediately pointed to Glasscott's on the nearest corner at Halsted and Webster Avenue.
"I mean, Glasscott's a busy bar," said Toia, who also serves as president of the Illinois Restaurant Association.
"You're thinking it doesn't fit in the character of the neighborhood," he added. "I'm thinking it does."
He also cited Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba in the other direction at 2024 N. Halsted.
Hughes wouldn't back down.
"It is not in the public interest," he said of the proposed liquor store. "And it is not compatible with the character of the surroundings."
Both Hughes and Patel's attorney, Tyler Manic, claimed to have letters of support from local residents, although Hughes was the only person in opposition to appear at Friday's hearing.
Public opinion was similarly divided at a community meeting on the issue this summer.
Manic also said Patel had filed business plans making concessions sought by 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith and the Sheffield Neighborhood Association.
In the end, Liquor Expo prevailed, and its was license approved by the board at the end of its meeting Friday at City Hall.
The existing Deli Boutique, 2318 N. Clark St., got a more welcoming reception in its hearing Friday before the zoning board. Attorney Mark Burkland said the store was only seeking to change its license so that it might possibly make the majority of its revenue from liquor sales.
"There will be no change in operations at the store," he said.
The proposal was previously endorsed by local residents at a community meeting in the spring. It faced no opposition from residents or commissioners at Friday's hearing and was approved.