Chatham group leaders urge liquor stores, bars to close two hours early on New Year’s Eve

South Side residents are asking Chatham liquor businesses to close early on New Year’s Eve in an attempt to curb violence in the area.

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Richard Wooten, founder of the Gathering Point Community Council and a candidate for the City Council, at a news conference in Chatham on Friday, asks local liquor stores, bars and clubs to close early on New Years Eve in an effort to reduce violence in the community.

Richard Wooten, founder of the Gathering Point Community Council and a candidate for the City Council, at a news conference in Chatham on Friday, asks local liquor stores, bars and clubs to close early on New Years Eve in an effort to reduce violence in the community.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Ahead of New Year’s Eve, South Side group leaders are urging Chatham liquor stores and bars to close several hours early on the holiday to curb violence in the neighborhood.

Richard Wooten, president of Gathering Point Community Council — and a candidate for the 6th Ward City Council seat — said at a Friday news conference that closing just two hours earlier would prevent loitering and start the 2023 off right.

He deemed the idea the start of a “New Year’s resolution” for the neighborhood.

In addition to Wooten’s South Side-focused group, which helps at-risk communities, Communities Organized to Win, the Christian Association of Businesses and the State Street Business Association are calling on liquor stores to close early.

“We’re urging the liquor establishments to become good neighbors,” Wooten said Friday in front of A&S Beverages, at 308 E. 75th St. “We also asked them to double up on their security so that the community can feel safe, and then their customers can feel safe… We want to have a peaceful transition because we’re focusing on making our community a safer and better community.”

Wooten wants all liquor stores to close by 10 p.m. and bars to close two hours earlier.

Alcohol and New Year’s Eve usually go hand-in-hand, Wooten said.

“So there is a statistical factor that shows that alcohol is a contributing factor to violence,” he said.

Wooten references A&S’ owner, Ahmad Elkhatib, as a business owner dedicated to working to keep the community safe.

A&S has had shorter hours since the pandemic, but Elkhatib said he would’ve closed earlier at Wooten’s urging.

“Whatever it takes,” he said. “My business is not just the last hour or two hours. My business is all around the year so if it makes the neighbors safe and the community safe, then, yes, absolutely.”

Although Wooten has reached out to other liquor stores and bars in Chatham, he has yet to receive a response.

”The city is closing in on 700 homicides this year so far, and anything we can do to make the city safer on New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve should be welcome,” said Tio Hardiman, president of Violence Interrupters, who attended Friday’s news conference. “A lot of these liquor stores have been making money all year. So it’s not gonna really hurt them.”

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