Park Ridge Not “Unfriendly” To Business, Just Nutty


For as long as we can remember, the City of Park Ridge has tried to lure “retail” businesses to our community.  Yet despite that desire being openly expressed by virtually every public official over the past two decades, Park Ridge allegedly has a reputation for being “unfriendly” to business.

We think that’s a bad rap, unless “unfriendly” means not throwing buckets of money at businesses to locate or stay here.  We call that “bribery,” but semantics are debatable. 

After this past Monday night’s performance in the Council Chambers, however, we’re convinced Park Ridge isn’t nearly as “unfriendly” to business as it is “nutty” to business.

On the Council agenda Monday night was a “first reading” (of the required two readings) for approval of a new type of liquor license – a “Class M” license – sought by the Whole Foods Market planned for the southeast corner of Touhy and Washington.  The Class M license would permit the consumption of beer and wine within any grocery store at least 35,000 square feet in area, a criterion which the proposed Whole Foods store would satisfy.

“Champagne Shopping,” anyone?

But a number of the folks who unsuccessfully opposed the zoning change permitting Whole Foods to build a store at that location in the first place apparently figured they could exact a figurative pound of flesh – high-priced prime Angus sirloin? – from the retailer by opposing the new license.   And that led to approximately 2 hours of what often approached theater of the absurd.

Several residents spoke of the carnage that would result from shnockered shoppers slamming their cars into St. Paul of the Cross school kids on their way to and from school – as if those same school kids aren’t already at risk from the lubricated motorists making their way along Northwest Highway from their liquid lunches at the gin mills/restaurants just down the street in Edison Park.  Or from the lunch crowd at Houlihan’s, Chipotle, or even the Pickwick Restaurant who might hit the road a bit tipsy. 

And that’s not even counting the frugal folks who imbibe their Two Buck Chuck at home before heading out on their daily errands. 

If protecting St. Paul kids from drunken drivers is really that much of a concern, however, why haven’t those folks who are ragging on Whole Foods about serving liquor demanded that the Park Ridge Police set up “Checkpoint Paulie” – as in St. Paul, not Paulie Walnuts of “The Sopranos” – on Northwest Hwy. every afternoon to snag impaired drivers – and do the same for the kids at all the other schools in town?

The Council’s contribution to the goofiness was led by Ald. Rich DiPietro (2nd), who sought to amend the original Class M license language proposed by Whole Foods by imposing several restrictions on liquor sales, the most significant of which was limiting Whole Foods’ sale of liquor-by-the-drink to the after-school hours of 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.   DiPietro wasn’t all that clear on why Whole Foods should be limited in ways that neighboring liquor-by-the-drink emporiums are not, but he’s always been more of a one-shot thinker than a comprehensive public policy wonk.

After DiPietro’s amendment passed 6-0, seemingly blessed by the silence of the Whole Foods representative in the audience, the amended Class M license was approved by a 4 (Alds. Raspanti, Knight, Mazzuca and Maloney) to 2 (Alds. DiPietro and Smith; Ald. Sweeney absent) vote.

That’s right, DiPietro voted against his own amendment!  Crass two-bit politics, anyone?

Not to be outdone, Ald. Jim Smith (3rd) – whose views and votes sometimes suggest the adverse effect of sunspot activity or, perhaps, subtle changes in the Earth’s magnetic fields – sought an amendment that would permit any business in Park Ridge to obtain a liquor license. 

Banking on bourbon?  Pinot at Pines?  Living Sea libations?

That bit of knuckleheadedness lost by a vote of 5-1, with Smith casting the only “yea” vote.   Smith also moved to have the Whole Foods site plan reduced from a 38,000 square foot store to a 20,000 square foot one, but that motion failed to even earn a second.

Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) let his freak flag fly, too, proposing the limiting of any Whole Foods boozer to 16 ounces of beer or 6 ounces of wine per day.  We can only hope his motion was an attempt at satirical improv, because not only would such a standard be pretty darn silly but it would be practically unenforceable.  Fortunately, that motion also failed, by a vote of 4-2 (Mazzuca and Smith voting “yea”). 

At one point, resident George Johnson asked:  “Do shoppers need to be liquored up to go to Whole Foods?”

We’re not sure of that, George – but a double scotch on the rocks sure might make Council meetings like these easier to endure.

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