CHICAGO (CBS) — A plan to ban retail liquor sales after midnight in Chicago got the go-ahead from a City Council committee on Thursday.Community Leaders Try To Find Home For Mural Dedicated To Murdered Young Activist
The midnight liquor curfew for package goods stores – which include liquor stores, grocery stores, and convenience stores, but not restaurants or bars – one of several proposals wrapped into the Chi Biz Strong Initiative passed Thursday by the City Council Committee on License and Consumer Protection. The initiative is intended to help Chicago restaurants and other businesses as they seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as new protections for consumers and workers.
The vote was 15-3.
“Truly, I always thought midnight was the place where we should land,” Mayor Lightfoot said.
Ald. Nick Sposato (38th) read a letter from a 7-Eleven franchise owner, who said cutting sales hours would devastate her business.
“If the propped curfew passed, it would result in a 33 percent reduction in my staff and a loss of sales,” the owner wrote in the letter Sposato read.
And coming from a Northwest Side ward on the edge of Chicago, Sposato worries that patrons looking to buy booze after midnight will just head across the city limits.
“They are going to go right across the street and destroy our businesses, and we’re going to have vacancies left and right,” he said.
But Mayor Lightfoot and the Commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, Rosa Escareno, said many residents complain about the liquor store hours.
Escareno said they impact “the quality of life in their communities.”READ MORE: Memorial Held For Beloved Barber Gunned Down On The Job In Lawndale
“We’ve seen gatherings, seen incidents around packaged liquor stores in neighborhoods on the South and West sides in particular,” Mayor Lightfoot said.
There are plenty of studies that point to alcohol consumption as a major contributor towards violence. Studies have shown that violence can be cut by reducing the availability of alcohol through regulating sales hours.
“We know as alcohol becomes more available, we see higher rates of alcohol-related problems – including violent and non-violent crime,” said Dr. Traci Toomey, Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
Toomey was one of the authors of a study in Minneapolis that found a connection between the density of alcohol establishments and violent crime. She said reducing the number of hours that booze is sold will indeed likely have an impact on a variety of crimes.
“We know that if alcohol is more available in terms of the number of hours sold, it’s related to higher levels of problems – including violent and nonviolent crime,” Toomey said.
However, there have been few such studies in cities comparable to Chicago.
Another consideration is liquor tax revenue. Will cutting hours also put a dent in the tax money the city receives?
The city said the pandemic liquor curfew – which cut off packaged goods sales at 9 p.m. until the curfew was moved back to 11 p.m. last fall – didn’t do as much damage as anticipated.
In 2019, the city collected $31 million in liquor tax revenue, while 2020 was just about $1 million shy.
To be clear, a permanent midnight curfew is not a sure thing yet. The proposal would still need to be approved by a full City-Council vote.MORE NEWS: Goodman Theater Opens For The First Time In More Than A Year
If this proposal is not passed in City Council on June 23, store hours would revert back to 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. after June 26.