Trouble spot closed, for now
All's quiet on the Western front; liquor store owner denies city has anything to do with it
12/12/2012 10:00 PM
A Near West Side liquor store that community activists, residents and city officials have called a blight on the neighborhood was shut down recently by its owner, but it’s unclear how long it will remain closed.
Adams Food & Liquor, at 219 S. Western Ave., is under fire mainly for the crowds of unsavory loiterers it attracted at all hours of the day when it was open. Crime frequently happened in front of the store or radiated out from it. On Nov. 11, three people were shot in front of the store; in March, a man was stabbed to death in front of it. Many of the disputes were alleged to be gang-related.
In October, the city began a formal process, called deleterious impact hearings, that would shut the business down if it didn’t straighten up. More than 40 people showed up at the first hearing, packing the small city hall meeting room to capacity.
At some point within the last two weeks, the liquor store shut its doors. The sign above the store’s door has been painted over as well, erasing the store’s name. Inside, neon beer signs are still visible though they’re turned off.
Ahmad Keshta, the store’s owner, said he just decided to close the store down for a while, and the decision had nothing to do with the city’s investigation. He said he was planning to reopen the store again “in a few days.”
“I want to relax for a while — I am tired,” Keshta said. “Everything is fine. I closed my own business down. I could open it right now; I have the key in my pocket. The city don’t have nothing to do with it.”
But Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who has been a consistent critic of the store and the criminal element it attracts, said the store tried this temporary closing tactic when it was under fire in the past and when it faced deleterious impact hearings in 2010.
“Last time, they did the same thing,” Fioretti said. “They’re playing the same game. That’s all it is.”
With the doors closed, the loiterers quickly disappeared, according to Mike Quinlan, who has been rallying the community against the store through the Near West Side Chamber of Commerce. He was surprised at how quickly the character of the block changed.
“I thought it might take a year as things phase out, but it was like a snap of the fingers,” Quinlan said. “If they’re trying to make a case that people are going to be hanging out in front of the liquor store regardless, it’s not working. It’s remarkable. Now I can go to the bus stop and not get harassed for loose cigarettes and anything and everything.”