LAKEVIEW — Late-night bar Tai’s Til 4 will be able to continue operating after a referendum seeking to ban alcohol sales in that part of Lakeview failed to pass in Tuesday’s election.
Lakeview neighbors added the referendum to the 16th District of the 44th Ward, which would have banned any sales of drinks with an alcohol content above 4 percent at restaurants and bars.
Had it gone into effect, Tai’s, 3611 N. Ashland Ave., likely would have closed, as most alcoholic drinks at a bar are above that 4 percent threshold.
But voters rejected the referendum and the measure failed 63 percent to 37 percent, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. It needed 60 percent of voters in support to pass.
“It’s a huge sigh of relief because there’s been a lot of misinformation about Tai’s,” owner Blake Itagaki said.
Itagaki said a group of neighbors pushed for the measure after years of frustration with violent crime near the bar.
Neighbors of the 4 a.m. bar blame Tai’s for a fatal shooting involving two customers that happened outside the bar in February, according to Itagaki. His establishment was also blamed for two shootings outside the Shell gas station across the street that occurred in 2013 and 2014.
“Basically, the neighbors feel that if the bar wasn’t there, then the shooting wouldn’t have happened,” said Itagaki, whose father opened the bar in 1961.
Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) sent a letter to precinct neighbors ahead of Election Day backing up Itagaki and stressing there would be “collateral consequences” if the measure passed.
“Voting the precinct dry will put a two-generation family business that’s been here for over sixty years out of business,” Tunney wrote. “I trust you will consider these facts when you decide how to vote on this issue.”
Tunney also said imposing the booze ban would have prohibited the nearby Jewel grocery store from holding in-store tastings, and prevented any bars or restaurants wanting to serve alcohol from opening the area.
Tunney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Nina Hallquist, who’s lived in Lakeview near the bar for 12 years, said she signed a petition to have the referendum placed on the ballot, but changed her mind after reading Tunney’s letter.
“I’m all for shutting down Tai’s, but I was ultimately against it when I learned the measure could affect other businesses in the neighborhood,” Hallquist said.
Another neighbor, who asked not to be named, said there was “no benefit” to allowing the liquor licenses in their precinct. He supported the measure to close Tai’s down.
“It’s not like we’re in Wrigleyville …” he said.
He said his wife was awoken by the sound of gunshots when the shooting happened earlier this year outside of Tai’s, and they were concerned about the bar bringing more violent crime to the neighborhood.
“It seems like voting the ward dry would have helped resolve the problems we’ve had with Tai’s,” he said.
Tai’s has been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Itagaki said he hopes to “move forward with a stronger bond with my neighbors” when the bar finally can reopen.
“I take pride in who we are and the legacy that my family has had there in the neighborhood,” Itagaki said. “It’s important to me that my neighbors know I’m not like that and the misconceptions about the bar are cleared up.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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