Friday, January 15, 2016 || By Michael Romain || Updated: 1/16/15
At a Jan. 13 Legal, License and Ordinance Committee (LLOC) meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted unanimously to direct attorney Michael Jurusik to revoke the business and liquor licenses of three businesses that have incurred multiple liquor, business and tobacco license violations.
At a board meeting last October, Jurusik identified LNR Family Store (1043 S. 5th Ave.), Captain Fresh Farm (1001 S. 9th Ave.) and Rosa’s Dollar Store (1401 S. 5th Ave.) as repeat offenders.
At the Jan. 13 LLOC meeting, Trustee Melvin Lightford angrily recounted a testimony of his own while inside of Captain Fresh Farm.
“I went in there to get a bottle of water. The place smelled so bad, it got to me; had that bad meat smell these stores have. So the only thing I can buy is water. When I walked in there, two teenagers came in and the guy sold them two cigarettes right there in front of me. I reported him to the police … and the guy gave me the finger. And then he did it again and again repeatedly. They got to be stopped!”
When called for comment, a store employee who only identified himself as Charlie said the store doesn’t sell loose cigarettes, anymore.
“They don’t sell those cigarettes at all,” said the employee, who noted that the store employs four people. He said the store’s owner wasn’t around at the time. “We sell Cook County cigarettes, but no loose cigarettes.”
The owner of LNR, who did not reveal her identity, confirmed that she had retained a lawyer, but noted that she couldn’t speak specifically on the case until she obtained his or her approval.
“We don’t do anything wrong in the community,” she said. “We’re helping the community.”
The owner of Rosa’s couldn’t be immediately reached to comment.
Jurusik said that last November, the mayor and then-Acting Village Manager David Myers, met with him to discuss actions short of suspending or revoking the licenses of the businesses. He said no previous action was taken with respect to LNR’s retail and tobacco sales licenses and that Rosa’s didn’t have a retail and tobacco sales license to suspend — they were just selling tobacco products without one.
“[They were] thumbing their nose at the village on all ends, because they took it upon themselves to not even comply with the ordinance that requires you to get a tobacco license [in order to sell tobacco products],” Jurusik said.
Captain Fresh, he said, got their tobacco license revoked, but still continued to sell tobacco products.
“If the board wants to increase violations, it can do that,” Jurusik said. “State Code says violations have a staggered amount for repeat offenders and we’ve been following that. We can certainly enhance those fines in ordinances using our home rule powers.”
He said the maximum fine allowed under state law is $2,500 for repeat offenders, which he said the businesses have been paying. Jurusik said the village can enhance the fines to $2,000 for the first offense, $3,500 for the next offense within a 12-month period and $5,000 for the third, or subsequent, offense within 12 months after that.
Ultimately, the final authority on whether or not to revoke those licenses belongs to Mayor Edwenna Perkins, who stressed that she wouldn’t take that action without sufficient proof that the businesses were incurring multiple violations. She said she recommended that the village explore other actions, such as increasing fines, that might stop short of what would be a drastic move.
“You will be closing down three businesses at one time is what you will be doing,” Perkins said. “We do have our proof.”
Many trustees said that the alternative to shutting the businesses down would be tacitly condoning their disorderly conduct.
“I don’t like the idea that you can buy your way out of things,” said Trustee Michael Rogers. “You know you’re doing something you’re not supposed to do and you gotta go.”
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“The food they’ve got in there, Aldi’s got better,” said Lightford of Captain Fresh. “They’re selling corruption. Get rid of the corruption and put a decent store in there.”
It’s not clear what the fiscal impact of losing the three businesses will be for the village. Potential lost revenue includes money from property taxes, sales taxes, business fees and (ironically) those fines.
But the village would also be losing what may be hot spots for criminal activity — albeit some of it uninvited.
In December 2014, Maywood police apprehended two suspects in an armed robbery at Rosa’s. In July 2008, a Bellwood man was shot to death inside Captain Fresh. And in 2011, LNR was one among ten suburban convenience stores engaged in illegal LINK card practices.
The stores were “were giving customers cash back on their LINK cards in violation of USDA rules. In addition, many of these same stores were trafficking in stolen goods — merchandise taken from the shelves of retailers like Walgreens, and resold to impoverished customers for five times the original price,” according to the Cook County Sheriff’s office.
The businesses have hearings scheduled for this month, but the board directed Jurusik to proceed with revoking their operating licenses. They may also move to increase the amount of fines for repeat offenders. VFP
CORRECTION: In a previous post, the name of David Myers was incorrectly spelled. This post has since been corrected. VFP regrets this error.