ENGLEWOOD — After exasperated Englewood residents fought for years to close a controversial liquor store, in the midst of coronavirus, the liquor store has suddenly closed.
“Closed Until Farder Notice,” in fact, according to a sign posted on the door of Stewart Liquors, 356 W. 75th St.
The store has been the backdrop of numerous incidents throughout the years, from small altercations to fatal shootings, its corner a routine stop for Chicago Police. But Monday afternoon, would-be customers were greeted by locked doors and the sign.
The liquor store had shortened its business hours from midnight-6 p.m. after a nearby shooting in March left one man dead.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said the closure was voluntary, but he doesn’t know the reason for the decision.
The sign was a welcome sight for Steve Casey, a longtime resident who has spent years advocating for the store’s closure.
“We have a stay at home order but that corridor — from Harvard Street to Eggleston Street — has been a haven for loitering,” Casey told Block Club in a recent interview. “It’s open six days a week until midnight.”
Chicago Police have done the best they could best to handle issues at the liquor store, but a lack of coordination and communication have hindered their efforts, Casey said. With the liquor store in a “no man’s land” between the Gresham (6th) and Englewood (7th) police districts, keeping the corner consistently clear is no easy task.
“Both district commanders are concerned,” Casey said. “There have been efforts. They know that the liquor store is a problem. The aldermen are aware, too.”
Casey is just one of several neighbors who have asked Alds. Sawyer (6th) and David Moore (17th) to lobby to shut the store down. Mothers Against Senseless Killings (MASK) and St. Sabina Church have rallied throughout the years to close the store permanently.
“Good mother— riddance,” MASK founder Tamar Manasseh said upon hearing the news. “I saw that sign and had to take a picture of it. I really hope it’s gone for good.”
Manasseh’s group aims to buy three city lots surrounding the liquor store to turn it into a play lot. She’s reached out to Sawyer for help procuring them.
“The idea is to create an environment where the liquor store will no longer be welcome,” she said. “If we have a school and a play lot, there won’t be any room for it.”
While Sawyer said he has no problem supporting any initiative Manasseh wants to put forward, he believes that the problem is much larger than Stewart’s Liquors.
“The bigger problems aren’t liquor-store related, most of the activity is drug related. The older guys who hang outside drinking are fairly tame,” said Sawyer, who added that the store owner, now in his 80s, is ill-equipped to handle day-to-day operations. “But it’s the younger guys, the ones selling drugs and loose cigarettes that are the issue.”
Sawyer said he plans to keep a watchful eye on the store and surrounding block, recently sending a cleanup crew to the area.
“Closing the store is probably a positive, but I don’t want people getting too excited. I’m concerned that it’s not going to stop the violence,” Sawyer said.
Despite Sawyer’s words of caution, some, like St. Sabina’s Father Michael Pfleger, remain optimistic.
“That store has been involved in a lot of violence, a lot of trouble. It closing is a gift to the community,” said Pfleger, who added that the store is one of many on the Southwest Side that needs to go. “I really hope it’s permanent.”
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