Local Option spot liquor license zoning as a business-development
or project-killing tool in Hyde Park-Kenwood

Presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development-
Preservation-Zoning Committee, and its website hydepark.og.

To Other Zoning Change Proposals

Zoning home including to maps. Development home. Business Climate. Quality of Life. Neighborhood Goals. Doctors Hospital. Antheus Capital.

Next 53rd TIF meeting tba.

March 14 2017, Tuesday, 6 pm. Medici liquor license meeting by Ald. Hairston. Medici, 1327 E. 57th St.

October 2016. Request by Target for license across from park and school. Letters requested by Ald. King. Action has been postponed a month. MEETING CALLED FOR NOVEMBER 9, 6 PM. AT MURRAY ACADEMY, 5335 S. KENWOOD.
See final Target Agreement.

ALDERMANIC MEETING ABOUT TARGET’S APPLICATION TO SELL LIQUOR ACROSS FROM THE SCHOOL ON 53RD STREET.

6PM TONIGHT AT MURRAY SCHOOL

The Liquor Commissioner has until FRIDAY to deny the liquor license Target requested in early September. According to her office, she can deny it if there are community objections, the Alderman and District 2 Police Commander object, and it will have a “deleterious effect.”

The denial would have been automatic if Target was within 100 feet of the school, but it is 130 feet from Murray. However, it IS within 100 feet of Nichols Park , which serves as the access point through which Murray students must pass to get to the school.

The Nichols Park Advisory Council voted unanimously to oppose the license, as “seriously detrimental to both the school and the Park. “ Many in the Murray School Community agree.

o4ward@cityofchicago.org


This was a moderately well attended meeting (including most of the NPACers, school principal, and some parents, also several lawyers! ) and was very well run-- lots of probing questions politely but firmly asked, looking for specific solutions and actions-- collegially answered even when not the answers hoped for. (The Alderman was late as they had the ribbon cutting on the bridge at 35th St.)

Target gave a short dog and pony, then the Alderman explained the situation and options, as did the Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection-- they now do liquor licensing !!!!!!!! The rest of the evening was questions.

In short: The decision whether to try to deny by the city has to be made this Friday or the license is automatically granted. The story (including from the University) is that no one was aware Target would want to sell liquor (of course that elicited snickers, esp. since every target in the metro area sells liquor except two that were built in precincts dry or have a moratorium). The Alderman found out "very late" and immediately filed an ordinance for a Moratorium on the two blocks Kimbark to Dorchester north side- filing that would have meant meant automatic denials for any application-- except that
Target had filed its application the day before (the Target rep and the Ald. each saying they didn't know the other was acting). The city commissioner says they explored the possibility of issuing a denial with with the Legal Dept., which said there were no grounds-- the distance is too far from park and school and there are not enough sellers in the two block radius to claim a deleterious concentration-- the appeals board and courts overrule denials based on aldermanic and police objections and then there is no leverage to bargain. The Alderman and city did in fact enter into negotiations for an operating agreement with Target, which was read to the audience at this meeting, which was arranged by the alderman (but is not required to be held). It had a lot of good things, including no products under x ounces or costing less than $5, no malt liquor, requirements security, lighting, cleanup, requirement to call 911 for any violations and report all violations in or out of the store and more. In response to specific requests from the audience, the parties will add: no sale during morning through afternoon school hours (vs. 7 am-10 pm!!!), security to check Nichols Park front for drinking or littering, volunteer help patrolling for litter, and requirement for Target rep to attend Nichols PAC meetings. Meanwhile, audience gave examples of lots of items the store could carry that are in line with Target's lines and that are not in other nearby stores-- they could consolidate the 3 lanes of liquor sales and expand their offerings.

Decision was to take a 5 prong approach --
1) Target management agreed to take to hq withdrawing the application.
2) The alderman and a set of audience will go to Derek Douglas and ask him to intervene as the landowner (it seemed Douglas had indicated and interest in so doing, but not a commitment).
3) The agreement on operation would be redrafted with the new recommendations as the parties all had agreed as final resort.
4) The alderman will proceed with the moratorium (which is on hold in City Council committee) for future requests and will share it with the community.
5) The city dept. will investigate with the alderman the lists to whom notification of application should have been sent, and whether they were, properly-- however, the same rules that affected the Vue 53 case denial based on proper notification do not apply for liquor applications.

WE ARE INFORMED THERE ARE AT LEAST 3 OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS (OR SOON TO MOVE IN) ON 53RD ETC. THAT WILL BE SEEKING SPOT ZONING LIQUOR LICENSES.

In August 2014 Open Produce, 1635 E. 55th St. sought a permit for package beer and wine sales. Ald. Hairston was in support.
A public meeting, sparcely attended followed in winter. An uproar broke loose when the Depadrtmetn of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection- Local Liquor Control Commission sent out notice of an Objection Period ending June 16. There was reminiscence of problems with a former store at Cornell and 55th and of when Walgreens sold small bottles. This proposal is for package goods including at least craft beer and medium priced wine, and teh store is open until 2 am. Comments can bed sent to the Department at 121 N. LaSalle, Room 805, Chicago IL 60602 by June 16.

The same people are now opening a wine taste shop at 1448 E. 57th St. Meetings were already held, with only one objection.


The UC rep. Attorney Danielle Cassel appeared before the April 16 2013? 4th Ward meeting to request change of the former Borders property from B1 t B3 which would allow additional business operations such as catering, live entertainment (but liquor would require a different process). Cited was interested businesses wanting to do those additional kinds of business an not signing if permitted only to do what's in B-1. All the surrounding properties are B-3, so its remaining B-1 is a kind of anomalous default spot zoning. The matter next comes up at the May 14 TIF meeting.

THE ZONING CHANGE WAS DONE BUT THE PETITION TO "UN-DRY" THE PRECINCT WAS TURNED DOWN BY CITY CLERK LATE MARCH BECAUSE THE BOUNDARIES WERE INACCURATELY DESCRIBED, in effect agreeing with the lawsuit filed by Thomas Penales and Jane Averrill March 22. The petitio wil hvae to be cirulated again. The denied petition got 60 of 79 registered voters (53 required for a flat overturn of the dry condition), thoughthe lawsuit also said there were invalid signatures. The lawsuit filers complained that the University was hasty and underhanded in handling of this and that it is proposing much too much too fast without either a general plan for 53rd St. or the university revealing its overall plan.
The proposal to make space for Merges Co. Yoshu Restaurant 1) was shown in an article in the Maroon's Grey City Journal to be after the University would not negotiate with Robust Cafe or others to come to the former Third World Cafe site and 2) somehow neglected to reveal that he space is in dry precinct. Peculiarities of owner vs rental property in the precinct allowed the University to gather a limited number of signatures (2/3 being required) so that after a waiting period the original "dry" vote was overturned. This may not be the last word.

Walgreens sought to return sales of beer and wine to four stores in area-- is this a big deal or not; are new licenses needed or not?
October 2010: Walgreen's on 55th and Lake Park seeks a liquor license- technically change in zoning from B1 to B3 to allow more stores with more uses in the Hyde Park Shopping Center. To Comment on petition of Lake Park Associates contact /North Star Trust #1046 500 W. Madison Ste 3150 Attn D. McKinley 312 609-7962.
Alderman Burns sent out an appeal to several community organizations to join him in opposing. Reasons given were alleged backtracking by Walgreens on the 47th store from asserted promise not to sel the cheap, small-package bottles, and fear of loitering at 55th. THE PACKAGE LAW DOES NOT DISTINGUISH WHAT KINDS AND SIZES OF LIQUOR CAN BE SOLD.
Ald. Burns introduced two ordinances that would restrict sales on parts of 47th (from former Michaels-- which had wanted beer at its cafe and bulk sales--- through the Walgreens, and on 55th at Walgreens. The 47th Walgreens had been granted a license over Christmas Dec. 29 2011 despite objections by Burns. MARCH 27 THE CITY DENIED A LICENSE FOR WALGREENS 55th. Walgreens had 20 days to file an appeal-- it was not known as of April 18 whether they did. If it does not, Burns filing of his ordinance precludes another 55th filing, and a new Michaels space tenant from so filing. The committee approved Burns' ordinance April 18 and was expected to go before the full council April 18. (Walgreens said it was responding to community desire for the license, which would account for about or less than 5% of its business. Ald. Preckwinkle approved license for the 3405 Kind drive Walgrens in November 2011 about the time Preckwinkle was moving to County Board. The 47th store did sell hard liquor, despite promises, for a time, according to the Herald. 5036 Cottage Grove does not sell alcohol.) Failed for 55th and the store was remodeled without liquor.

The Herald headlines in the April 7 2010 issue "Walgreens seeking liquor for four local stores." Which is true, but it may matter that, as one read's in the issue, it is beer and wine only, not hard liquor, that Walgreens seeks to bring back. Previously, when concerns were raised about behaviors allegedly associated with sales in at least some of these stores, it seemed to be more in relation to hard liquor sales, particularly small-package sales, and have varied from store to store. There have seldom been such allegations regarding stores in Hyde Park that sell been and wine only such as Treasure Island and indeed regarding stores that also sell hard liquor such as Binny's and Kimbark Liquors and Wine Store.

On the other hand, at least one local district of the Chicago Police Department is vigorously opposed to any alcohol sales return to the Walgreens; Alderman Preckwinkle is opposed but willing to talk about sales in the store on King Drive. Their specific reasoning was not specified in the article. Nor did the article explore whether plans are afoot to return beer and alcohol sales to Walgreens in the 3rd, 5th, or 20th Wards. Apparently some kind of permit or public hearings is necessary for the changes.

Also of interest is looking at this in light of retail options and selection in the neighborhood and retailing and customer demand changes, and what this may say about neighborhood changes. Walgreens' said it is responding to customer demand, presumably from market study and sales analysis and experience, particularly that people now want one-stops-- Clearly, the 55th Walgreens has added or expanded many lines including food and apparel, that either are of limited availability nearby or in other cases seek to compete directly with nearby stores such as Treasure Island. (Often, it appears, at cost to selection within departments-- and that might become marginally more apparent with addition of another department in a store where some aisles are rather narrow.) When the alcohol sales were originally removed, the reason given was that Walgreens was reconfiguring stores to in line not only with market studies but profit margins per lines-- citing particularly the need to expand its more profitable cosmetics section.

The four stores are at 1554 E. 55th St, 3405 S. King Dr., 1320 E. 47th St., and 5036 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

Here is the article:

A proposed plan to sell beer and wine by national retail chain Walgreens Drug stores in four locations in and around Hyde Park is facing stiff opposition from the local members of the Chicago Police Department as well as the powerful Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th).

"Walgreens is proposing to sell liquor again," said Genessa Lewis, commander for the 2nd District of the Chicago Police Department. "Let them know we don't want this. I've written them a letter to let them know the police department 100 percent doesn't want this."

A spokesman at Walgreen Drug Stores downplayed the move, saying the addition of beer and wine would be a modes one and is a response to customer demand. "We're responding to customer demand -- we've learned that our customers want more of a one-stop shopping experience... What we're talking about here is just beer and just wine -- we're looking at less than 2 percent of the total shelf space in our stores," said spokesman Robert Elfinger.

Preckwinkle, however, is opposed to the addition of alcohol to the other four locations, 1554 E. 55th St., 3405 s. King Dr., 1320 E. 47th St. and 5036 S. Cottage Grove Ave., citing problems in the past when Walgreens sold liquor. "We have community issues that preclude us from having alcohol there," Preckwinkle said, adding that the only spot she would even begin to discuss adding alcohol was the King Drive location.

Preckwinkle's Chief of Staff Mae Wilson said the office had already taken steps to prevent the change. "We sent a letter already to the Department of Buildings asking them not to give any licenses to sell liquor to Walgreens," Wilson said.

Elfinger said the addition would not be the large liquor departments Walgreens had until the m id- '90s but instead would simply bed adding new product to the store. "What we're talking about today is a pretty limited selection but beer and wine," Elfinger said.

The city's liquor commission did not respond to Herald calls by press time.

Hyde Park Produce is said to be considering filing so it can sell wine.

Following up on Del Prado and 55th proposals- 1350 E. 53rd (this B1-2 to B3-2). (The first number = uses, that after the dash = density.) More coming. See at May 11 TIF meeting, (The Del Prado involves more than just ability to have a restaurant serving liquor. The matter before the Zoning Appeals involves exceptions to allow reconstruction of the upper appendage for high end rental housing that in turn will make other improvements feasible.) HPKCC board agreed to support via letter the proposed Del Prado replacement of 12th floor wings before the Zoning Board of Appeals May 15.

Changes OK'd for Del Prado

Herald, June 10, 2009. By Kate Hawley

The historic Del Prado building would house one or more full-service restaurants under a proposal floated by Silliman group LLC, teh development arm of major Hyde Park real estate owner Antheus Capital LLC. The Company is shortly to begin a major renovation of teh 1918 tower, located at the southeast corner of Hyde Park Boulevard at 53rd Street. A zoning change is required to accommodate the restaurant plan.

The Chicago City Council's zoning committee voted unanimous approval Thursday to up-zone the property from B1-5, a neighborhood shopping district, to B3-5, a community shopping district. The higher designation means that a broader range of businesses -- including full-service restaurants with catering operations and separate bar areas -- will be allowed on the property. Other types of businesses, such as tattoo parlors, pawnshops and payday loan stores would be allowed only after a community review. The new zoning would not change the density or size of buildings allowed on the site.

Silliman has not made a deal with any restaurant operators yet, according to Peter Cassel, director of community development for Antheus. "We're actively talking with a number of people," he added. The restaurants would occupy what were originally two vast, ornate ballrooms on the building's mezzanine level. One of the spaces was home to the Hyde Park Art Center before it moved to its new location at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. in 2006.

Currently the Del Prado houses apartments with small retail shops on the ground floor. It uses to have a restaurant at the penthouse level, but that space is being converte4d into luxury apartments. Silliman received permission last month from the Zoning Board of Appeals to rebuild the structure with slightly higher walls.

Silliman is also seeking to upzone a mixed retail and residential building at 1350 E. 53rd St., formerly home to a Washington Mutual bank branch. "What we're doing is trying to bring back the zoning map in Hyde Park to where it is in other neighborhoods," Cassel said. As an example, he cited Andersonville, which has a thriving row of shops and restaurants along Clark Street.

The May 2009 TIF Adv. Council unanimously approved the proposed 1350 E. 53rd St. rezoning. The owner (Antheus/Silliman) expects to be using the space for its offices for about a year.

TIF council OKs up-zone. Herald May 20 Kate Hawley

Plans to up-zone a Hyde Park building to accommodate a restaurant topped the agenda [May 11, 2009] ...The council voted unanimously to approve a plan by Silliman Group LLC to change the zoning for Kenwood court, 1350 E. 53th St., until recently home to a Washington Mutual Bank branch. Silliman is affiliated with real estate firm Antheus Capital LLC, which owns more than 70 buildings in Hyde Park and is behind some of teh neighborhood's biggest development projects.

Kenwood Court, now zoned B1-2, a neighborhood shopping district, would be rezoned to B3-2, a community shopping district, according to Peter Cassel, director of community development for MAC Property Management, another Antheus affiliate. Silliman is seeking the higher zoning designation to move forward on a plan to lease space in the building to a full-service restaurant with a separate bar area and catering facilities, Cassel said.

Several in the crowd of roughly 30 that attended the meeting asked whether the up-zoning might open the door to other kinds of businesses the neighborhood might find objectionable. Cassel noted that liquor stores, tattoo parlors, cremation facilities and a range of other businesses must undergo community review before approval under the B3-02 zoning classification. Council member Jane [Comiskey] asked if the building's resident and immediate neighbors had expressed any concerns about the zoning change and restaurant plan. "The ones we spoke to were all for it," Cassel said.

Spot control of liquor licensing through Local Option referendum or else rezoning or zoning variation is on the rise in 2008 as a tool for business control, but in very different ways. Note that once a referendum passes, the issue cannot be placed on the ballot again for 47 months. HPKCC Development Committee took a position there should be modern remapping, and no spot zoning until then.

February 2009- MAC Properties/Antheus Capital called a community meeting for Monday, February 23, 6 pm, 5307 S. Hyde Park Blvd. concerning its desire to rezone the Del Prado from B1-5 to B3-5 in conjunction with a planned rehabilitation of the building and streetscape. This zoning change would permit the renovated Del Prado to offer a wider variety of commercial uses such as a general restaurant, which may serve alcoholic beverages if all required State and City permits and licenses are issued. Questions? Please contact Peter Cassel at (773) 347-3451 or pcassel@macapartments.com. Announcement in pdf.

One is the placement on the November 2008 ballot in Precinct 39, Ward 5 of a proposition to dry the precinct in order to stop the University-White Lodging hotel redevelopment of the Doctors Hospital site. It is both praised as direct democracy using a neighborhood local option/home rule tool, and also opposed as misapplication for a purpose that only few think has to do with any likely deleterious or "destination" effects of inside alcohol service in a restaurant-conference center and would instead put a chill on development, period far beyond the site. Thus the debate is partly over NIMBYism on one side and University gorillism and assault on area character on the other- indeed a few pro-ref. people implied that they regard the rest of Hyde Park not their neighborhood. Visit Doctors Hospital page for background and full discussion.

South East Chicago Commission and the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce both oppose the referendum and support the hotel project while the Herald opposes the referendum but wants the hotel project revisited. Al Kuby and Greg Lane argued that an ignored community could use any legal tool at its disposal.

Judith Stein, who is a good friend of development, including a hotel at Doctors Hospital, a lively community and the University, decries the referendum tactic and recalls that at the latest public meeting hardly anyone took seriously any problems the service of alcohol in itself would pose; and thinks the petition was an end run. She recalled many good and responsible venues and developments would have been stopped if such a tactic had been applied against them.

Robert Greenspoon also opposes the referendum. He comes with different perspectives, having tried to stop Solstice on the Park just to the north of the 39th Precinct. His argument is also from the viewpoint both of misuse of a tactic and wanting the hotel project and commercial development in general. He contrasted concessions, albeit limited, won on Solstice from negotiations focused on zoning issues and consequences. He has criticism of the hotel project but says the vote subverts both neighbors having a real say and needed development. We should hold officials accountable for bringing all meaningfully to the table.

Richard Gill says a yes vote will dry up options, reinforcing the message that HP is antidevelopment and local enclaves will block any project they don't like. The dry option uses up any ammunition for changing the project and could be followed by something even bigger.
Allan Rectschaffen says this is the last bit of leverage.

Ald. Hairston also wrote against it.

A legal challenge was dropped. The judge indicated ahead his leaning toward the question re petitions being "genuineness of signature," not abiding by technical rules.
39th Precinct liquor local option impacting Drs Hospital-"DRY" SO FAR LEADS 249-228 (21 plurality in 477) VOTES, but clarification being sought as there are a reported 12 challenged votes and some absentee ballots. A RECOUNT AND OR LITIGATION MAY ENSUE. Ald. Hairston and UC VP say the project is dead. See Doctors Hospital.

Herald, November 12, 2008- passes by slim 19 votes. By Kate Hawley [These totals are higher than we had seen before, but do not necessarily factor in all absentee and provisional/challenged votes.]

Whatever happens on the Doctors Hospital site won't involve the sale of alcohol -- at least not for the foreseeable future. Voters in Tuesday's election came down narrowly in favor of a referendum to ban the sale of alcohol in the 5th Wards' 39th Precinct, where the property is located. That throws a wrench in a play by developer White Lodging Services...

Of the 485 people who voted on the referendum, 252 or 52 percent supported the ban, and 233 or 48 percent opposed it. The margin was just 19 votes, according to results posted Friday on the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Web site. In total, 520 people in the precinct voted in the Nov. 4 election, with 35 abstaining from a vote on the referendum.

A problem with the electronic voting machines meant the results could not be tabulated immediately after the 7 p.m. closing of the polling place, located in Bret Harte School, 1556 E. 56gh St. The glitch was resolved by the following day.

The vote totals changed slightly in the three days following the electi8on, though the outcome remained the same. ...

Greg Lane, a precinct resident who has been a staunch backer for the referendum, called the victory "bittersweet," saying it was the last resort to keep the university and the developer from ignoring the community's concerns. "There is a very strong sense here that the community owns this vote," he said. "We were David, and we beat Goliath. That's no small thing."

Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th), whose ward includes the Doctors Hospital site, said the referendum was "the wrong way to go about ... trying to work something out." A robust community process was about to get underway when the petition was filed in August, she said. The dry vote "really limits the opportunity for development for a period of four years," she said. Voters can put a referendum to reverse the ban on the 2012 ballot, but that's a long time to let the vacant building sit fallow, she said.

In the meantime, the university is considering how to move forward. "It's an unfortunate outcome, and we're evaluating our options," said Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs. "I don't know where we go from here right now ... We didn't do any contingency planning, he said... Everything was focused on this referendum."


The second is a rezoning that would allow liquor licenses, and other new uses, for the row of ethnic restaurants in the 1600 block of E. 55th St. between the viaduct and Cornell Ave. Here the purpose of landlord MAC Properties is to allow quiet, perhaps marginal restaurants to increase their and the landlord's income, increase the area's destination draw and service to students and residents, increase flexibility of uses so making the shops more leasable, and presumably to increase attractiveness of its proposed nearby high rise, Solstice on the Park. For Antheus/MAC background, see Antheus page or their own site. (Included would be Morry's Deli, which raises some amused brows, but not the dollar store across Cornell, whose predecessor liquor store was voted dry a few years ago for alleged deleterious effect and activities. The request is expected to be submitted to the city the week of October 20th. approved December 18, 2008 by the City Council Committee on Zoning.

An informal pre-submission pre-hearing was held by Ald. Hairston. The restaurants are generally seen as conservative major contributors to the business and cultural scene and a draw, including for students' parents, that need the help and flexibility in the economic times from ability to sell alcohol (assuming they can qualify for individual licenses). Some nearby residents either feared increases in activity and parking demand or feared deleterious effects, even claiming every liquor license leads to problems, not true (i.e. Piccolo Mondo, but often true for the Cove and Bar Louis) in this writer's observation and more noise in that area coming from residents over the stores. These matters are not always simple, as needing review would be the proposed category in the recently revised city code to examine all and any changes that might be allowed in addition to liquor licenses, that might be feasible in these establishments and could affect quality of life--e.g. rooftop or sidewalk patios, live music, etc. As for change coming, it already will be with Solstice on the Park-- likely one of the motivations for the zoning change by the landlord which is also building Solstice. (Note: Finishing on 55th exterior repair work and removal of the scaffolding would in this writer's view give an immediate lift to the restaurants and stores on the block. Also, in full disclosure, MAC Properties is a major donor to Ald. Hairston's electoral campaigns.)

Chicago Maroon, October 3, 2008. By Lokchi Lam:

A rezoning proposal that would allow several Hyde Park restaurants to acquire liquor licenses was presented by MAC Property Management in an informal neighborhood meeting on Thursday night. The potentially affected restaurants, including Morry's Delicatessen, The Nile, Thai 55, Cafe Corea, and Kikuya, are on 55th Street between the Metra tracks and cornel Avenue; all hold leases with MAC.

According to MAC representative Peter Cassel, the objective of the proposal was to boost revenues for the restaurants. "There's almost nothing else on the menu you can sell with those kind of margins," Cassel said. "They told us they were looking to improve their businesses, and we put together this plan with the very direct goal to help them with their businesses."

The rezoning application, if submitted to the city, would request a change in the buildings' statuses, allowing the restaurants to acquire liquor licenses and provide occasional entertainment and dancing.

Several Hyde Park residents expressed concern that increased traffic caused by the rezoning would compound local parking problems, raise the price of dining out, and cause alcohol-related disturbances for neighbors living near the restaurants. "Every place that has a liquor license creates problems neighbors that live near it," said resident Elizabeth Long at the meeting. "I really don't like the idea of creating more and more of that... It could potentially change what this area and this block is about."

However, Alderman Leslie Hairston, who also attended the meeting, responded to resident concerns by pointing to checks and balances in the licensing system. "It's not like it'll be a free-for-all, and everyone is dancing in the streets... We can take away their license if things get out of control," she said. Cassel echoed Hairston's sentiments. "It's not so much about consumer experience as their ability to make money on that," he said. "We're looking to help the businesses grow so they'll invest in the interior and invest in the restaurant experience."


Zoning change to allow alcohol sales on 55th St. Ald. Hairston pledges support for switch at city level. (with list of what the new allowed uses would be.)

Hyde Park Herald, October 8, 2008. By Sam Cholke

Mac properties announced to neighborhood residents Oct. 2 its intentions to change the zoning on a building at 16012-23 E. 55th St. in an attempt to help the 12 business owners in the East Hyde Park building to be more competitive. "We have a direct goal of helping them be more successful in their businesses," said Peter Cassel, director of community development for MAC Properties.

Cassel told about a dozen residents that MAC had gone to the businesses to ask them what could be done to make them more productive, and they said they wanted the option to apply for a liquor license to serve alcohol. About half of the businesses in th building are restaurants. Currently, customers can consume alcohol they bring, but the restaurants may not sell it.

A representative from Kikuya, 1601 E. 55th St., said most of their customers are looking for sake or Japanese beer and that they would like the option of offer them that. The zoning change would allow for a healthier mix on their menus as far as profit margins, Cassel said.

The proposed change would be to B3-5 from B1-5. the new zoning does not affect restrictions on building size or density or minimum parking standards but would allow new types of businesses to be housed in the building.

Under current zoning, restaurants in the strip are barred from applying for a liquor license or offering catering, major revenue sources for businesses according to Cassel. The zoning change would also open the door to other types of businesses locating in the fully occupied building. A veterinary clinic, employment agency, dry cleaner and other businesses could take up residency under the new zoning without a special permit. Business like tattoo parlors, cremation services, liquor stores and other businesses would have to apply for a special permit requiring public meetings and the alderman's approval.

"I think this neighborhood is known as a business friendly place," said David Gill, a neighbor. "If this is good for business, it may change the block [a] little-- I don't think it will-- I'm for it.

Peter Cassel said all the business owners were very supportive of the zoning change and the three house holds from the 22 rental units he had spoken to said, "Cool." University of Chicago students rent most of the residential units in the building, according to Cassel.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said she took the community reaction to be positive and would support the zoning change as it moved through City Council and th Committee on Zoning. The process will likely take three to four months, she said.

Cassel said masonry repairs would start on the building long fronted with scaffolding as soon as permits were approved. The paperwork for the permits has already been submitted to the city, he said.

___________

Current B1-5 restricts service of liquor by restaurant. MAC says it will not support a package liquor store in the properties (which would require a special use anyway).

New uses under new zoning B1-5 to B 3-5 (almost all the spaces are far to small for most of these new uses.

New uses permitted without a special use exception. Licenses would be required. They include "general restaurant."

New uses with special permit

Fair Trader owners said notification was weak for the meeting on the zoning change and they want the building work done and the scaffolding gone. (MAC has its permit for the building work, which will be done March into summer.)

Zoning committee OKs liquor rezoning or 55th St. strip. Hyde Park Herald, Decedmber 24, 2008. By Kate Hawley

A row of merchants along 55th Street took a step toward being able to sell alcohol Thursday after the Chicago City Council's Committee on Zoning approve a rezoning ordinance for the property. The ordinance affects 12 storefronts at 1601-23 E. 55th St., which are fully occupied by several restaurants, a salon, an optometrist's office and the Fair Trader retail store. The three-story building also houses 20 residential units and the offices of MAC Property Management, which owns the building.

MAC is behind the effort to change the zoning from B1-5 Neighborhood Shopping District. The zoning change would not affect building size and density, or minimum parking requirements. the change would allow different uses in the building, which would pave the way for the restaurants to apply for liquor licenses -- a potential boost to sales. "In the current economic climate, it's very important for them to work on increasing their revenue," said MAC attorney Danielle Meltzer Cassel to the committee.

She also presented zoning maps showing that Hyde Park has fewer areas friendly to alcohol sales than some bustling areas on the North Side such as Andersonville and Wicker Park.

Cindy Pardo, evelyn Johnson and Madeira Myrickes, co-owners of the Fair Trader, have complained in a letter to the Herald that foot traffic has slowed since scaffolding went up ion the facade more than a year ago, while MAC Properties completes repairs to the property. MAC has secured a city permit for an "extensive rebuilding" of the north and south walls of the building, according to Peter Cassel, director of community development for the company (he is married to Meltzer Cassel, the attorney). The repairs will likely start in March once the weather warms up and will take about three months, he said. "We're just as eager as anyone to get that work underway," he said.

No members of the public appeared at the hearing Thursday to comment on the zoning change. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) did not attend, but Meltzer Cassel said the alderman has been supportive of the zoning change after holding a community meeting Oct. 2 at which the proposal was "98 percent well received."