Thanks to a city alderman, a Chicago dope dealer recently got a six-figure public grant to open a liquor store — in a neighborhood where new liquor licenses have been banned for the past decade.
The startling information comes from an investigation by Chicago Tribune reporters David Jackson and Gary Marx and published by the paper over the weekend.
The section of West Madison Street where the Convenience For You store opened in April has been a hotbed of drug dealing and crime, and liquor stores have historically been magnets for criminal activity, the paper said, with street fights and drug dealing swarming around the shops.
Alderman Deborah Graham led the drive to set aside the ban on liquor licenses for the area, even though the street doesn’t need a new liquor store. There are already liquor stores a block away on either side of the new shop.
Graham’s support of the store, owned by convicted narcotics dealer Frederick “Juicy” Sims, shouldn’t be surprising. The folks involved contributed almost $2,000 to her political war chest, one of the largest donations she got that year, according to the Tribune story.
When the Tribune asked Graham about Sims involvement with the store, she said, “That's new information to me."
"It's disturbing on so many levels," resident Serethea Reid, who argued with the city over the allowing he new store, told the Tribune reporters. "The concentration of liquor stores means more violence, more trash, more police activity."
Not only did the city waive its ban on new liquor licenses, it gave $105,000 in tax increment financing grants to the store’s owner.
On his 2009 application for grant funding from the city, Sims described himself as "the founder and visionary leader of Convenience For You.” But the Tribune had some slightly different details on his background.
“Not long after dropping out of high school in 1989, Sims was convicted of three separate felony drug cases as he was caught selling and carrying cocaine and heroin on the streets near his home, court records show. Sims was acquitted of murder charges in 1994,” the Trib reported.
Sims grew up in a house that was the home base of Chicago’s Vice Lords, a drug-dealing street gang. A police raid there in 2012 uncovered materials used in packaging drugs for sale, along with nearly $47,000 in cash. Sims is currently awaiting trial on charges stemming from that raid.
SOURCES: Chicago Tribune, Journal of Oak Park and River Forest