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* The real problem here is the state’s outdated “blue laws.”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