South Side residents are concerned about excessive loitering outside the Calumet Food and Liquor, located at 315 E. 43rd St.
Local businesses and community organizers in Bronzeville are worried that the liquor store is attracting the wrong kind of company.
Stephanie Roberts catches the Green Line at the 43rd El station weekdays to her job downtown as a secretary at an investment firm. No matter the time of the day, she said she consistently sees panhandlers, alcoholics and drug dealers in front of the store located just underneath the El.
And when she comes home from work, she said she refuses to go down the stairway on the side of the street that leads to the front of the store. Roberts said she worries she will be harassed by panhandlers for money, or worse, end up being harmed by someone standing outside the establishment.
“There are times where I just don’t feel safe,” Roberts said. “It’s sad how sometimes you can’t feel safe in our own neighborhood.”
Not everyone agrees with Roberts.
Velma Morris, a lifelong Bronzeville resident, said although she agrees that the store is a “sore eye” in the community, she feels safe around the establishment. However, she said she’s disappointed with what the store has become. She recalls how 15 years ago the store was more of a “family store” with some loitering, but not like it is today.
“People who have been here their whole lives unfortunately are used to it,” said Morris, a lunchroom manager for Chicago Public Schools.
The store’s owner, who introduced himself as “Nigel”, declined to comment.
Amandilo Cuzan of the Bronzeville Alliance said his organization has spoken with Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) about the loitering and was assured something would be done. He also said the owner of the establishment needs to take responsibility.
“If they won’t take responsibility in the community, they should leave the community,” Cuzan said. “If not, they should be shut down.”
Alderman Dowell was contacted several times but was unavailable for comment.
John Owens, director of community building for the Centers for New Horizons, said solely blaming the owner of the store isn’t the answer because he may not be able to handle the loitering problem.
“You can’t expect him to possibly risk his life to get these people from hanging out in front of his store,” Owens said. “He is in a tight spot.”
Owens suggests the owner of the store should invest in some type of security if the loitering continues to be a problem.
Some business owners are concerned the loitering at the store will turn off potential customers from patronizing Bronzeville.
“It concerns me 100 percent,” said Anthony Beckham, co-partner of the Le Fleur De Lis restaurant, which opened in October less than a half block away from the liquor store.
Beckham said in an effort to help his patrons feel safe, he has security available to walk women to their cars at night so they feel safe.
“When we brought this business here we knew what we were getting into. Patrons have every right to feel safe when they come into your establishment,” he said.