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Missing the point

Monday, Jul 14, 2014

* Sun-Times

At last month’s grand opening of a shopping center anchored by a Pete’s Fresh Market grocery, Mayor Rahm Emanuel hailed the supermarket as an oasis in what had been a “food desert” on the West Side.

Besides food, Pete’s also sells liquor — even though the new store is next door to a church, the Greater Bethlehem Healing Temple, and state law bans liquor sales within 100 feet of churches or schools.

So how can Pete’s be selling beer, wine and spirits?

With a little help from influential friends including Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), who’s gotten tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the grocer in the past two years. […]

“This facility will be within 75 feet of our church,” Greater Bethlehem Bishop Chester Hudson wrote in a June 5 letter to Quinn. “We have received calls from local politicians and lobbyists on their behalf. Our response has been the same: NO.”

* The real problem here is the state’s outdated “blue laws.”

Look, nobody wants a seedy liquor store next door to anything. But a brand new supermarket? C’mon, man.

Go take a look at Google’s “Street View” of the church’s address. The block is mostly empty lots.

* The “scandal” in this story is that a legitimate business had to fork over campaign contributions, hire a Statehouse lobbyist and pass a bill just to open a much-needed grocery store over the objections of a church.


The bill was originally introduced in 2013 by Senate President John Cullerton as an empty shell. These shells are used all the time because the state laws are so onerous. Sen. Iris Martinez took sponsorship in March of this year. Her original amendment exempted two Chicago church properties from the state’s blue law.

Rep. Dan Burke filed an amendment in the House which expanded the number of churches exempted from two to four and added other provisions

Adds provisions that authorize the sale of alcoholic liquor within 100 feet of a specific school, a specific club that leases space to a school, and 4 specific churches located in the City of Chicago. Changes a specific exception to provisions concerning the sale of alcoholic liquor within 100 feet of a church, school, or hospital by providing that the shortest distance between the premises and the church or school is at least 66 feet (rather than 35 feet) apart and no greater than 81 feet (rather than 45 feet) apart. Further amends the Liquor Control Act of 1934 by providing that, subject to certain conditions, alcoholic liquors may be delivered to and sold at retail in any building owned by the Six Mile Regional Library District.

The library district, by the way, is in Granite City - far from Chicago.

The state law needs to be changed. Supermarkets shouldn’t have to go through this long and painful process just to open their doors.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 9:20 am:

    But if the laws were sensible, how would a hard working lawmaker provide constituent services well enough to earn unsolicited campaign contributions?

  2. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 9:25 am:

    The blue laws are just silly.

    Old St. Pat’s has one of the biggest keggers of the summer to raise money, shutting down the streets around the church.

    Of course, they’re pretty wired to begin with.

  3. - John A Logan - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 9:32 am:

    Perhaps this needs to be amended such that those businesses that derive less then 50% of their sales from alcohol are exempt from the blue laws. That would seemingly strike a balance and be easy enough to do.

  4. - Wumpus - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 9:35 am:

    John A. Logan for Lt Gov! The A is for awesome post

  5. - Pete - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 9:35 am:

    John A Logan…

    If the other 51% of sales come from tobacco, candy, soda, and gasoline would that count?

  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 9:35 am:

    Of course many blue laws are silly. But they do exist for a reason. As Rich says, no one wants a seedy liquor store opening next to a church. But try writing a law that will keep that seedy liquor store from opening while allowing a supermarket. It’s tough. That’s why we have zoning boards and variances. The church also has rights. We may or may not agree with the church’s stance, but it is the church’s right to say, “Hey, wait a minute.” I’m not sure that a change in state law was wise here. All too often, when we change statutes because of some outlier thing, we end up creating more problems down the road. Was there a way to accomplish the end with a variance? Not sure, but this sure smells like a local, not a state, issue.

  7. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 9:37 am:

    ===Was there a way to accomplish the end with a variance? ===


    And that’s the whole problem. Dump the stupid blue laws and let the locals decide.

  8. - lake county democrat - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 9:56 am:

    Tangent but Greater Bethlehem Healing Temple on Madison has a fascinating history - check out their web page. Many of the members aren’t from the neighborhood (though they do some great work in the community). If the westward creep of the gentrification on Madison continues that area is going to be changing a lot in the near future.

  9. - Joan P. - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    “The church also has rights. ”

    I’ve never understood why churches get special privileges. If the neighbors as a whole don’t want this, vote the precinct dry. These kinds of zoning reg, like the rules about liquor licenses, are just a huge scam.

  10. - Judgment Day - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:04 am:

    “Perhaps this needs to be amended such that those businesses that derive less then 50% of their sales from alcohol are exempt from the blue laws. That would seemingly strike a balance and be easy enough to do.”

    It’s a brand new store. What sales? And if it’s a typical bureaucracy, they’ll want a minimum three months worth of data (probably 6 months).

    Best alternative is just do away with the blue laws. Imagine that, fewer laws to deal with.

  11. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:05 am:

    ===Best alternative is just do away with the blue laws===

    Exactly right. Let the locals decide.

  12. - Goooner - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:05 am:

    I’m with Joan P.

    Why do churches get special protection when it comes to who their neighbors should be?

    If there is a reasonable justification for this law, I’m just not seeing it.

  13. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:11 am:

    On the positive side, at least this is a simple statute change unlike some place like Alabama where simple local changes often require a state constitutional amendment. But if that’s all you can say that is positive, there’s a problem.

  14. - OneMan - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:13 am:

    Exactly right. Let the locals decide.

    Yep, if you want to be what South Holland was in the 70s knock yourself out. Not sure this is a state thing.

  15. - Anonymous - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:16 am:

    “Go take a look at Google’s “Street View” of the church’s address. The block is mostly empty lots. ”

    And while you are on Google Maps, type in ‘groceries’ in the search box and observe the vast, vast food desert for yourself.

  16. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    The more convoluted the rules are, the more necessary we (our “leaders”) are.

    After all, someone has to help constituents navigate through so many of these difficult situations. Never mind who created these rules or fails to fix them in the first place.

  17. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:35 am:

    == Why do churches get special protection when it comes to who their neighbors should be? ==

    Why do elementary schools or some community centers get special protections?

    This sounds like a case of a grocery store needlessly getting caught up in terribly outdated “blue” tape. That said, if we are going to apply equal standards then let’s make sure we apply them equally to all. Otherwise, valid reasons may exist for some of those “special protections”. Putting say, a strip club, across the street from either a church or a children’s school seems a bit much.

  18. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:36 am:

    == Why do churches get special protection when it comes to who their neighbors should be? ==

    Why do elementary schools or some community centers get special protections?

  19. - Goooner - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 10:47 am:


    Because schools have unaccompanied kids going to and from them.

    Seems obvious to me.

  20. - Ghost - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 11:02 am:

    I want a combo liquor store auto dealer open Sunday morning…

  21. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 11:12 am:


    As do some churches and other community centers on various days, especially during the summer. That particular point is not much of a difference or distinction.

    It sounds as though you have no qualms about any form of “adult entertainment” venues next door to a church, synagogue, convent or mosque?

  22. - Living in Machiaville - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    Digging your public service messages Rich. So much sanity needs to be added to the hyper-bolic eager-to-find-dirt press, no matter from what presuasion. Your take on bureaucrats being human and arcane processes are sopt on as well. I’d say “keep it up dude” but that would be superfulous.

  23. - downstate hack - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 11:33 am:

    Put the Liquor department of the part of the store farthest from the Church. That would get it much more than 100 feet away. (Snark)

  24. - Jay Dee - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 12:23 pm:

    Blue laws most likely will stick around because there isn’t any political pressure to repeal them; they’re mainly just an inconvenience to the average person while folks who support them, like the church, would probably mobilize if a legislator introduced a repeal bill.

  25. - Chicago Bars - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    That 100′ law is a very outdated state level blue law. It was one reason (among several) Trader Joe’s pulled out of doing a proposed store in the middle of Wicker Park / Bucktown.

    It’s an outdated blue law. Ditch the law and give the local liquor commissions a few months to choose whether to adopt their own silly local blue law. The statute nearly killed the legendary Jimmy’s Woodlawn Tap in Hyde Park.

  26. - 3rd Generation Chicago Native - Monday, Jul 14, 14 @ 1:21 pm:

    Not much different than residents not wanting bars next to them, which in turn restaurants have to be BYOB.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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