Hearing scheduled on liquor store next to day care

January 30, 2008 4:05:28 PM PST
The state liquor commission has scheduled a hearing next month on a proposal to put a liquor store next to a day care facility in the south suburbs. There is a state law preventing liquor stores from operating within 100 feet of a school. But the question at the center of this debate ia whether a day care center can be considered a school.

Seventy kids from 3-months to 6-years old call the Nurturing Developmental Learning Center in South Holland school from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It has separate classrooms, curricula for different students and state-certified teachers through its 8,000 square feet.

But does that make it a school? The state liquor commission will have to decide.

"The Illinois State Board of Education comes in and approves of their operation, so certainly they operate like any other school does," said Lloyd Brooks, daycare attorney.

But if Greenwood Liquors has its way, the kids next door on Sibley Ave. may have to deal with it. The property line between the Nurturing Developmental Learning Center and a proposed liquor retailer doubles as the border between suburban South Holland and Dolton.

"When it comes to the safety of the children, and number two education, is important and before we can educate them, we have to provide safety for them, and with finding a common ground there is no common ground with the sale of alcohol right next door to us," said Dr. Medina Bailey, Nurturing Development Learning Center.

The Illinois Liquor Commission has granted opponents to the license a delay to prepare for a March 12 hearing, when the city of Dolton will have to prove it granted the license to Orland Park's John Argiropoulos within the scope of state law. Argiropoulos is the man behind Greenwood Liquors. He and the city of Dolton did not return calls for comment.

"I think they should be ashamed of themselves -- they now have the opportunity to do the right thing to take the high road and say, you know what, we are putting our children's brains ahead of this business interest," said Janet Williams, Illinois Coalition Against Underage Drinking.

Argiropoulos, license opponents say, gave them a tour of the building and talked about erecting a fence and lighting on the property line to shield impressionable eyes from the activity around a liquor store. But the licensee appears determined build.

The brother of Dolton Mayor William Shaw, Dolton inspector-general Robert Shaw confirmed by phone that Mayor Shaw is also Dolton's liquor commissioner. And published reports quote the mayor's son, Victor, as the contractor Argiropoulos has hired for the renovation.

"I think we are in an area where they could be an argument presented by either side, and potentially, reasonable people can disagree on whether or not a daycare center is a school," said Richard Haymaker, Illinois Liquor Commission.

The March 12 hearing is an appeal of Dolton's approval of the license. If the daycare center is not successful, they can appeal when the state grants its license in this matter because an operator needs certificates from both levels of government.