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

By Ben Meyerson
Editor

6 Comments - Add Your Comment


Raymond Aquirre, left, Jeffrey Foy and Kenneth Adams stand near Adams Food & Liquor on Western Avenue in Chicago, waiting to sell individual cigarettes to passersby in November, before the store closed down. The city is trying to shut down the store and crack down on people gathered by it. File 2012

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.”

CONTACT: bmeyerson@chicagojournal.com

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By Daisy from Near West Side
Posted: 12/19/2012 11:48 AM

I was informed they were allow to re-open after paying hefty fines and bring the place up to code. The store even has a security guard. Personally, I believe they (City) did this to get money for the fines, and to shut it down for good when people start complaining about the place again.



By claudeah from united center
Posted: 12/18/2012 10:53 AM

I drove by last night and the shelves were being cleared and items were being packed into a moving truck. So, good news.



By Mike from West side
Posted: 12/15/2012 11:28 PM

It's amazing how the city will harass a legitimate business but when a cancer in the neighborhood harbors drugs and gang-bangers, the city wants to give them a fair chance to continue to run their business. Especially when the problems were as blatant as this store was. The city should have the right to yank a business's license on the spot if a city inspector drives past and sees illegal activity constantly taking place around the clock.



By Mike
Posted: 12/15/2012 11:26 PM

It's amazing how the city will harass a legitimate business but when a cancer in the neighborhood harbors drugs and gang-bangers, the city wants to give them a fair chance to continue to run their business. Especially when the problems were as blatant as this store was. The city should have the right to yank a business's license on the spot if a city inspector drives past and sees illegal activity constantly taking place around the clock.



By David from Near West Side
Posted: 12/13/2012 12:27 PM

If the owner was planning to be opened in a few days, why did he paint over the name and the place is still closed? He knows that there is a chance his business will be shut down for good. This place have too many issues, problems, and chances. Just shut it, end of story.



By Sam from Far West Side
Posted: 12/13/2012 11:28 AM

I bet you will not see or hear one gangbanger, drug dealer, peddler, or someone who didn't leave area after the projects were torn down; give their testimony on why this liquor store should stay opened.