West Side liquor stores close early to encourage residents to stay at home as Chicago coronavirus cases rise

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Liquor stores on Chicago's West Side will close at 6 p.m. in order to help with social distancing and stop people from congregating on the street, the stores' owners said Monday.

The liquor stores are still open and operating legally as essential businesses, but the strict, self-imposed regulations are the owners' ways of trying to protect their staff and customers.

"We have lines on the floor and we're only allowing up to 10 people at a time in the store," said Ninos Yaro, who owns Sunset Food and Liquors in Austin.

At Personal Liquors it's only five at a time.

Fliers were posted over the weekend on businesses that have a liquor license in the Tri-Taylor, North Lawndale and Austin neighborhoods with the new measure.

The fliers stated that in partnership with the Chicago Police Department, stores are voluntarily reducing hours starting Friday, April 3 and continuing for the duration of the shelter-in-place order.

"We used to close at 2 a.m. and now we close at 6 p.m.," said store owner Raed Bisharat.

"We know we are going to lose money, lots of money, but still. If our community is healthy, we'll be healthy," said Gagandeep Kaur, business owner.

The idea is that with fewer places open fewer hours each day, people will have more reason to stay off the street.

"Hopefully everybody will stay in the house instead of hanging out outside. So we're trying to do our part," Yaro said.

"People life and safety, way more important than profit," said Bisharat.

Last week, Gov. JB Pritzker announced that the state's "stay-at-home" order would be extended through April 30 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Illinois.

Mayor Lightfoot has also announced several initiatives to encourage residents to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, including "The Sunday Arts Takeover" where top Chicago artists take over the mayor's Instagram Live with at-home performances.
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