Seven liquor stores on the West Side have agreed to reduce their hours of operation in an effort to discourage people from congregating outside and potentially spreading COVID-19.
“We’re in a great position today that we have businesses in this community — businesses in the West Garfield [Park] area, businesses in the Austin community, businesses in the Ogden [police district] community — who have voluntarily decided that they will help this community to reduce congregating in front of their stores,” Chicago Police Deputy Chief Ernest Cato III said during a Monday news conference outside Personal Liquors in West Garfield Park.
“How fortunate can we be in this time, in this crisis, right now that these stores have decided to do this?” he added. “They have shown what community policing will do when we bring everyone together.”
The seven liquors stores are all located within the Harrison, Austin and Ogden police districts.
The announcement came just hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared a “public health red alarm” after she learned that African Americans, despite being 29% of the city’s population, have accounted for 70% of Chicago’s COVID-19 deaths.
The Harrison and Austin districts are largely populated by African American residents, while the Ogden District is split between African American and Latinx residents.
Raed Bisharat owns Personal Liquors at 4241 W. Madison St. Though the store is typically open until 2 a.m., he said he’d now close his doors at 6 p.m.
“Peoples’ lives and safety [are] way [more] important than profit,” Bisharat said. “You can’t compare. Peoples’ lives come first.”
The change in liquor store hours isn’t the only police measure aimed at stopping congregations on the West Side.
Last week, Harrison District Cmdr. Darrell Spencer ordered that officers monitor four separate blocks in the district — all of which have lengthy histories of gang and narcotics activity — to ensure that only people who can prove residency on the blocks be allowed on them. However, several officers said they were hesitant to follow the order out of concern that it was not constitutional.