CHICAGO — Several West Side liquor stores are voluntarily closing early in an effort to get people off the streets to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The move, made in collaboration with local police districts, aims to break up crowds that gather outside the stores, freeing up police to enforce social distancing guidelines in other places, police officials said.
“The reductions in hours will drastically reduce the time people are congregating in a single place to flatten the curve,” said Deputy Chief Ernest Cato III.
The voluntary reduction of hours are happening in the Ogden (10th), Harrison (11th), and Austin (15th) Police Districts. Those West Side districts have seen more large groups gathering than in other parts of the city since the statewide stay at home order went into effect, according to police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
People socialize outside the West Side liquor stores, which has made enforcing the social distancing guidelines tough, Cato said. Cutting liquor store hours will show young people who haven’t been affected by the epidemic that they need to take it seriously, too, he said.
“We have a health crisis that we have to deal with. And you’re going to see the young folks in the neighborhoods in this community start to realize that, just from something as simple as this,” Cato said.
On March 29, police broke up 89 groups of people in the Harrison Police District alone. Four groups were broken up in the Austin Police District that day, Guglielmi said.
Personal Liquors at 4241 W. Madison St. will start closing at 6 p.m. instead of its usual 2 a.m. closing time. Owner Raed Bisharat said he chose to shorten hours to encourage people to stay home.
Bisharat said he saw a slight decrease in sales after the stay at home order. Now that he is cutting hours, he knows he will lose a substantial amount of income.
“People’s lives and safety are way more important than profit,” he said.
Sunset Food and Liquor at 5921 W. Division St. will also cut hours and begin closing at 6 p.m. rather than its usual 11 p.m. closing time.
Owner Nino Yaro said he hopes people will stay at home instead of hanging outside. The sooner people take the social distancing guidelines to heart, the sooner the city will move past the epidemic.
“Hopefully all the businesses, especially the liquor stores, bring down their hours so hopefully we can get back to normal soon,” Yaro said.
In an effort to reduce loitering last week, Chicago Police stationed officers at four West Side crime hotspots, asking people to show ID. Only people who lived on the blocks there were allowed to enter.
Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.
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