Alcohol Bans and Walkability Don’t Always Mix

Humans can learn many lessons from pizza. Sure, the main takeaway is that the dairy, meat, dough and spices properly combined produce delicious results. But last weekend, pizza also taught me a lesson about community.

OK, so it wasn’t the pizza itself that taught me such a lesson. Rather, it was the journey to the pizza that got my mind working. Along the way, I determined that:

  • It is time to repeal our alcohol sale ban, and
  • The proximity of our dining and drinking establishments to people’s homes is key to making our neighborhood safe and successful.

After months of hearing from friends and locals about the wonders of Pizzeria Deepo, my wife and I decided to try it, capping off an exhausting week with some indulgent deep-dish. We live a little less than a mile and a half from the 99th Street restaurant, a measure we like to call walking distance. After all, who doesn’t feel the need to take a walk after consuming a big ol’ cheese pie?

The other appeal of the restaurant was the BYOB policy. As I mentioned, this was the end of a tiring workweek, and we wanted to relax with a couple adult beverages. Pizzeria Deepo, while an excellent dining establishment, is also one of the few options within walking distance where one can partake in the rituals of dining and drinking simultaneously, due to policy prohibiting the sale of alcohol in much of Beverly.

Guess which areas are dry? (Metra stations in red.)
Guess which areas are dry. (Metra stations in red.)

Here, I’d like to stress the fact that Pizzeria Deepo is within walking distance and also mention the quality of the walking experience. There are other establishments in different parts of the Southwest Side and suburbs that can legally sell alcohol, but the pedestrian experience often leaves much to be desired. Some of these places are not in the appropriate proximity for walking, and driving is often the most convenient option. Others are located on thoroughfares like Western Avenue, which, while seeming to throw a bone to walkers with crosswalks, is really an unsafe place for pedestrians.

The walk to Pizzeria Deepo, however, was pleasant, taking my wife and I on a scenic tour of the neighborhood on one of the warmer Friday nights we have experienced recently. And the area around the 99th Street Metra Station, although small, is one of the most adorable, walkable areas in Beverly.

Because we walked, we didn’t have to worry as much about the number of drinks we had — even though each of us had just two. But even if we had more, the generally safe route back home meant that a stray stumble most likely wouldn’t end our lives. Like all well-designed streets, the ones that took us home are forgiving to the unpredictable pedestrian — intoxicated or not — not the automobile driver.

In the days since I’ve thought about the impact our alcohol ban truly has on dangerous behaviors. People will find a way to drink, even if it means driving to do it. If we repeal our alcohol ban, we could allow for more establishments to open in our mixed-use districts and within walking distance of those who might otherwise get behind the wheel, drive outside the area to drink and put people’s lives at risk. A tipsy pedestrian is far less dangerous than a tipsy driver.

Overturning the ban can be an arduous process. Voters in the dry precincts must support a referendum for the question to be placed on an election ballot, and a majority of the people in the precinct must approve the change. I did not live in the neighborhood in 2008 or 2009, but I understand that an attempt at that time failed. I don’t know what the rhetoric was like or what went through people’s minds as they voted, but I hope that we can have a thoughtful, adult conversation about the issue until the time comes to petition for another referendum.

In the meantime, I’m gong to continue to take walks to Pizzeria Deepo, beer in tow, because I’ve fallen in love.

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2 thoughts on “Alcohol Bans and Walkability Don’t Always Mix

  1. The issue of the ban on alcohol sales dates back to the founding of Morgan Park. The Village of Morgan Park was founded by wealthy, blue-nosed Methodists as a refuge from the evils of the city, including the consumption of alcohol. This did not stop the august male residents from going to adjacent Mount Greenwood to tip a few, but at least their wives and children were safe from stumbling drunks attacking them on the streets. When the city annexed Beverly (and later Morgan Park) the ban on alcohol sales continued. As the racial composition of surrounding communities changed, the ban on alcohol became a vehicle to keep the dreaded package liquor stores from invading the various business districts. That the clientele of these establishments could be African-American speaks to the panic that gripped the community in the 1960’s. There have been recent attempts to do targeted alcohol sales in specific areas, such as 103rd Street where there was a small gourmet restaurant that wanted to serve alcohol. The residents of the area soundly defeated this attempt. The restaurant has since gone out of business. Any future attempts to change the ban on liquor sales will no doubt meet with the same fate. Many of the machinations of this neighborhood are tied up in irrational fears and hidden racism. I moved here over 20 years ago and am still puzzled by how things do or do not work here. We are a bit of an insular backwater of psuedo-suburban living.

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