Gold Coast wine store planned in 'dry' precinct

July 10, 2013 (CHICAGO)

One resident has filed a lawsuit to stop a wine store from opening in his neighborhood.

Just steps away from Rush Street bars and restaurants is a pocket of the Gold Coast that Elm Street resident Jeff Jarmuth insists is dry, as in no booze, which is why Jarmuth says a new fine wine shop called Just Grapes has no business moving into the neighborhood.

"We voted ourselves dry with no exceptions, which means no liquor license of any of the six classes can be issued in our precinct," he said.

As a holdover from the Prohibition days, state law allows voters to vote a municipality -or if in Chicago, a precinct - dry, and that is exactly what residents did in the Gold Coast neighborhood in 1982. The area between Lake Shore Drive to the east, State to the west, Elm to the south and Division to the north, was voted dry.

"At some point between 1982 and '84, part of that precinct was detached or annexed to a neighboring precinct," said Jim Allen, Chicago Board of Elections spokesman.

The Chicago Board of Elections says in 1984, voters signed a petition to have the annexed area declared wet. So, as far as the city is concerned, the corner of Elm and State is wet, which is why Just Grapes owner Don Stritong thought it would be a great location to open a specialty wine store.

"It's a tremendous location from foot traffic, demographics, lack of competition," said Stritong.

But Stritong's planned August opening may be derailed by a federal lawsuit filed by Jarmuth. The Gold Coast resident questions whether the 1984 petition is legitimate. Jarmuth says he is not against wine, he just wants a federal judge to sort out the dry or wet legal mess, while Stritong just wants to open his business.

"If Queen Elizabeth wanted champagne at this location, she is told to go to another," said Jarmuth.

"It's disheartening one or a couple individuals can create enough turmoil that delay this," Stritong said.

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