Business leaders call on city to reinstate license for East Garfield Park food and liquor store

The city used the “summary closure ordinance” to shut down One Eleven Food and Liquor, but owner says they can’t police the streets.

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McKinley Gray, son of Percell Searcy, who owns One-Eleven Food and Liquors, and Verlinda Dotson, Searcy’s niece, outside One-Eleven Food and Liquors in East Garfield Park Thursday morning, Aug. 13, 2020. Community advocates and residents demanded that One-Eleven Food and Liquors’ license be re-instated. The store’s license was revoked because the owner allegedly failed to stop loiterers, operate within permitted hours and hire security guards, which the owner’s relatives and advocates deny.

McKinley Gray, son of Percell Searcy, who owns One-Eleven Food and Liquors, and Verlinda Dotson, Searcy’s niece, outside One-Eleven Food and Liquors in East Garfield Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Business leaders in East Garfield Park want the city to reinstate the license of a food and liquor store shut down because the public sidewalks in front of the property were alleged to be a hotbed for criminal activity.

One Eleven Food and Liquor, 111 N. Kedzie Ave., was forced to close last month after it lost an appeal of a license revocation in July 2019.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Chicago Police Department used the “summary closure ordinance” against One Eleven Food and Liquor after several violent crimes took place near the store.

“Business owners throughout the city have a responsibility to ensure that their operation does not create a public safety threat to the community,” said Isaac Reichman, spokesman for Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. “Following multiple violent incidents, including a shooting inside the establishment, the business entered into a Nuisance Abatement Plan with the city.”

Under the ordinance, if a business is “deemed to be a public safety threat” because of criminal activity happening in front of its establishment, the city can force the business to comply with guidelines like closing early.

“The business failed to follow this agreed-upon plan and, after years of violence, numerous complaints and non-compliance, the license was revoked in July 2019,” Reichman said.

Percell Searcy owns the land and has operated the store for decades. Searcy’s niece Verlinda Dotson said they complied with all of the city’s requirements. They installed a fence around their property, installed better lighting, shortened their operating hours, and hired five security guards. The additional costs led them to fall behind on property taxes.

“One of the security guards had a family emergency and had to leave work early,” Dotson said. “It just so happens on the one day he left early, the city showed up for a ‘pop-up’ visit and without the security guard we failed — so they took our license.”

Siri Hibbler, CEO of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce, condemns the closure of One-Eleven Food and Liquors during a news conference outside the store in East Garfield Park Thursday morning, Aug. 13, 2020. Community advocates and residents demanded that the store’s license be reinstated.

Siri Hibbler, CEO of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce, joined other community residents Thursday morning to condemn the closure of One-Eleven Food and Liquors. They held a news conference outside the East Garfield Park store to demand that the store’s license be reinstated.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Dotson acknowledged there had been loitering outside the property but said they have no authority to police city-owned streets.

The family said the move to close their business, which has served East Garfield Park for over 40 years, was the city trying to satisfy the more affluent people who have moved to the neighborhood.

“How did [the city] know to come check on us the one day our security guards left early?” Dotson said. “Someone must have called them.”

Siri Hibbler, CEO of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce, said the city should be investing in businesses like One Eleven Food and Liquor instead of shutting them down.

Searcy is a pillar in the community, Hibbler said.

“This is a business that can’t get just $5 in support from the city, and he’s been here for decades,” Hibbler said. “Meanwhile just next to us there is the Hatchery, and the city handed them millions of dollars to have their doors locked to the community.”

The Hatchery is a $34 million food and beverage incubator that received $7 million in tax increment financing and opened in 2018.

As for One Eleven, “this business has helped so many residents, it has paid for college education, he’s paid for funerals, graduations, people have been able to come here and get food when they didn’t have any money,” said Hibbler. “This is the only Black retailer in East Garfield Park that owns the land.”

Searcy wasn’t at the news conference Thursday as he is recovering from two recent heart attacks.

Michael Stinson, pastor of the General Assembly and Church of the First Born, said Searcy gave him his first job, paid for him to go to prom and helped him get his first car.

“He is one that has always stood up for this community, and he has always been open to help people that needed to be helped,” Stinson said. “So we are out here standing up for him.”

A sign that reads “Support Black businesses!” is taped on a car outside One-Eleven Food and Liquors in East Garfield Park during a press conference where community advocates and residents demanded that the store’s license be re-instated Thursday morning, Aug. 13, 2020. The store’s license was revoked because the owner allegedly failed to stop loiterers, operate within permitted hours and hire security guards, which the owner’s relatives and advocates deny.

Community advocates want the city to reinstate licenses for One-Eleven Food and Liquors in East Garfield Park.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.

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