Siri Hibbler of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce speaking at a rally at One Eleven. Credit: Pascal Sabino / Block Club Chicago

EAST GARFIELD PARK — The Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce wants the city to allow a liquor and grocery store to reopen after it was forced to close last month.

City officials shut down One Eleven Food & Liquors in July for failing to comply with a safety plan to mitigate criminal activity around the business. The store at 111 N. Kedzie Ave. was put on the plan four years ago after Chicago Police attributed some crime, violence and loitering to the store.

The city revoked the store’s business license in 2019. Last month, One Eleven lost its appeal of the revocation, forcing the shop to shut its doors after 42 years and eliminating a source for fresh food.

Neighbors led by the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce rallied at the store Thursday, saying the closure was an assault on Black-owned businesses on the West Side and an effort to gentrify the quickly changing neighborhood.

Siri Hibbler, who leads the chamber, said One Eleven was the only Black-owned retailer in the neighborhood that owned its storefront. It was also one of only two Black-owned liquor stores in East Garfield Park, she said.

The chamber is demanding the store’s business license be reinstated and leaders want to meet with Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the issue.

“This has been one of the main grocery facilities, food facilities, not just liquor, that this community knows,” Hibbler said. “… This is a fight that we’re having right now over the entire country within our Black communities. The inequality and the injustice that is done to our residents, to our businesses — it is time that the city listens to us.”

Bridgett Carter, who lives in the area, said the store is particularly important because it was one of the only places to get fresh produce, meat and dairy in the area.

“We need to come to this store. We have older people that can’t even walk — we have a senior citizen building over here, this is the only store they can make it to,” Carter said.

The city initially shut down One Eleven using a process called summary closure that allows police to close establishments they say pose a repeated threat to public safety. The store is located just off the Kedzie Green Line station, which has been a hot spot for shootings, loitering and illegal street peddlers.

In 2016, there were shootings in the area on consecutive days, one of which involved someone opening fire from within the store, according to the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. After a temporary closure in 2016, the city required store owners to agree to a plan to reduce crime in the immediate area outside the store before they could reopen.

Verlinda Dotson, whose family runs the store, said they installed extra lighting and cameras, built an iron fence and hired security guards to comply with the plan.

“Everything they told us to do, we put into play,” Dotson said.

Some at the rally said it was unfair for the store to be blamed for the crime in the surrounding area.

“With regards to people being outside of their perimeter, that’s not their responsibility. That is on the street, it’s on the city of Chicago,” Hibbler said.

While some neighbors want the store reopened, others have worked for years to shut it down. Longtime resident Annette Briton lives just across from One Eleven and said the store attracted loitering, public drinking and violence late into the night.

“There is a responsibility of business to do their part to make it a safe place for the public,” Briton said. “It attracts a certain type of undercurrent of people. … That kind of an atmosphere doesn’t uplift our community.”

Briton said the area has improved since the store closed, with her block becoming “a much more peaceful area to live.”

Hibbler said increased scrutiny on the grocery store is part of the gentrification of Garfield Park, accelerated by recent developments like the Hatchery Chicago next door to One Eleven.

Hibbler said the Hatchery’s pristine, new facility illustrates what happens when the city supports a business, while the struggling One Eleven is what happens when the city neglects Black businesses and communities.

The chamber will protest the Hatchery and other new developments until the city begins supporting longtime Black-owned businesses in the neighborhood, Hibbler said.

She said many of the complaints against the grocery store are from newcomers to Garfield Park.

“We’re saying to those people is that you need to know how to be inclusive to the community that you chose to come into,” Hibbler said. “You’re embarking on racism here in our community.”

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) did not return calls about the closure.

Pascal Sabino is a Report for America corps member covering Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park for Block Club Chicago.

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