So much for the clout that comes with being Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader — at least when it comes to sensitive subjects like extending the hours of Sunday liquor sales.
An avalanche of opposition on Wednesday tanked, at least for now, a plan by Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th) to allow “package goods liquor” to be sold at 8 a.m on Sundays, instead of at 11 a.m.
African-American aldermen said they’re concerned that selling booze at the earlier time would lead to more drinking, more standing around outside those stores and more crime.
“We’re getting beat up by liquor establishments anyway in the neighborhood. And we haven’t even begun to talk about giving `em a longer time. That three hours could make a difference,” said License Committee Chairman Emma Mitts (37th).
“Every meeting, they’re constantly talking about these liquor stores in the neighborhood. Too many of `em. To give `em more time is not a good idea…We’re just not talking about….more alcohol here. We’re talking about a safety issue.”
Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) said she is equally opposed.
“Since you really don’t have any control over who goes to the store, how much they spend and how early they get up to wait for the store to open, the idea doesn’t transfer easily to each community,” Graham said.
“It’s not that they’re so opposed to the stores themselves. It’s the activities around the store and the people standing. When you address the business owners, they tell you they’re doing everything they can to get the people to not stand in front of the store, which still doesn’t help the community.”
Aldermen Bob Fioretti (2nd), Tom Tunney (44th) and John Arena (45th) expressed similar reservations.
Fioretti said he has “four or five” stores in his ward that “would love to be grabbing onto this early in the morning on a Sunday. And the community would probably be raising holy heck instead of going to church at that time.”
O’Connor countered, “I’m all for keeping Sundays a day of worship. I don’t think this changes it. We’re not talking about having a bar open. We’re not talking about people drinking inside or drinking outside. We’re talking about people buying package goods at the same time that they’re buying their groceries so they don’t have to make two trips.”
But O’Connor nevertheless agreed to hold the ordinance in committee and find a way to make it “more palatable” to his colleagues.
That might involve allowing 8 a.m. sales, only in larger stores with a certain amount of square footage or creating a new, “incidental package liquor license” for stores that derive most of their sales from food, not booze.
For the time being, though, legislation championed by the mayor’s flood leader remains stuck in committee, a rare thing indeed.
“I wasn’t invoking the mayor’s office or trying to include them in the discussion. I’m first and foremost a member of this body. I recognize there are true and legitimate concerns that everybody has as it relates to liquor sales. I respect those concerns and we’ll work through them,” O’Connor said.
“I frankly am encouraged by the discussion because most members think there is a way to try and accomplish this for responsible vendors.”