April 20, 2010

Looking to secure liquor licenses, Walgreens faces fight with alderman

Facing stiff community resistance, four Walgreens in and around Hyde Park are trying to obtain liquor licenses, including the Walgreens at East 55th Street and South Lake Park Avenue.

The stores hope to sell beer and wine, but aren’t seeking to re-introduce the large liquor sections of the past, according to an April 14 article in the Hyde Park Herald.

Fourth Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle is fighting the move, and her Chief of Staff Mae Wilson said the office had sent a letter to the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection asking that the Walgreens not be granted the licenses. “We’re waiting to hear when there’ll be a hearing,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that when Walgreens used to have a liquor license, problems had occurred, and that while future problems weren’t necessarily inevitable, “one way to not have them is to not open that Pandora’s box. That’s my thinking, and maybe that’s what [Preckwinkle is] thinking, too.”

Wilson said the focus was on Walgreens, not on liquor licenses in the area in general. “This is just about Walgreens,” she said. When Preckwinkle heard the news, “her first inclination was to decline their request,” Wilson said.

The Chicago Police Department may also be opposed to granting the licenses. Commander Genessa Lewis of the second District was quoted in the Hyde Park Herald last week saying, “The police department 100 percent doesn’t want this.” However, follow-up calls this week were referred to the News Affairs office, where Sergeant Patrick Donahue said that the issue had to be looked into further before an official statement could be made.

The University of Chicago declined to comment on the issue.