Liquor licenses proposed on 55th Street

The potentially affected restaurants include The Nile, Thai 55, Morry’s Delicatessen, Cafe Corea, and Kikuya

By Lokchi Lam

A rezoning proposal that would allow several Hyde Park restaurants to acquire liquor licenses was presented by MAC Property Management in an informal neighborhood meeting on Thursday night. The potentially affected restaurants, including Morry’s Delicatessen, The Nile, Thai 55, Cafe Corea, and Kikuya, are on 55th Street between the Metra tracks and Cornell Avenue; all hold leases with MAC.

According to MAC representative Peter Cassel, the objective of the proposal was to boost revenues for the restaurants.

“There’s almost nothing else on the menu you can sell with those kind of margins,” Cassel said. “They told us they were looking to improve their businesses, and we put together this plan with the very direct goal to help them with their businesses.”

The rezoning application, if submitted to the city, would request a change in the buildings’ statuses, allowing the restaurants to acquire liquor licenses and provide occasional entertainment and dancing.

Several Hyde Park residents expressed concern that increased traffic caused by the rezoning would compound local parking problems, raise the price of dining out, and cause alcohol-related disturbances for neighbors living near the restaurants.

“Every place that has a liquor license creates problems for the people that live around it,” said resident Elizabeth Long at the meeting. “I really don’t like the idea of creating more and more of that…. It could potentially change what this area and this block is about.”

However, Alderman Leslie Hairston, who also attended the meeting, responded to resident concerns by pointing to checks and balances in the licensing system.

“It’s not like it’ll be a free-for-all, and everyone is dancing in the streets…. We can take away their liquor license if things get out of control,” she said.

Cassel echoed Hairston’s sentiments.

“It’s not so much about consumer experience as their ability to make money on that,” he said. “We’re looking to help the businesses grow so they’ll invest in the interior and invest in the restaurant experience.”