Since the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition and legalized the sale of alcohol in 1933, Chicago has never been known as a place where thirst goes unquenched. But a new temperance movement has taken hold in this shot-and-a-beer city, a crusade to make some Chicago neighborhoods as sober as Salt Lake City on Sunday morning.
In an effort to make city neighborhoods more wholesome and appealing to families, Mayor Richard M. Daley has been promoting a "vote dry" campaign, with City Hall lawyers teaching citizens' groups how to outlaw the sale of alcohol in a precinct, typically a few blocks of 400 to 500 people, or even at a particular address.If 25 percent of the registered voters in a precinct sign a petition to outlaw the sale of alcohol, the measure goes on the ballot in the next general election. Nearly 50 precincts, or parts of precincts, have been voted dry in the past decade, a number that could soar with the Daley administration pushing the technique.
In some neighborhoods crowded cheek by jowl with bars and liquor stores, alcohol so dominates the landscape that little else seems able to thrive. Along some parts of 79th Street on the city's South Side, drunks urinate in public and crowds of foul-mouthed young men rule the street corners.
The Daley administration's anti-alcohol efforts are part of a series of moves intended to make Chicago a better-behaved and more upstanding place for families.
Thirty-eight of the city's 50 wards have a moratorium on the issuance of new liquor licenses. The city has passed measures intended to keep out "gentlemen's clubs," where women dance naked on tables and sometimes sit on men's laps.
Daley is not a teetotaler, and he has said most of the 6,000 establishments in Chicago selling liquor conduct themselves honorably. But neighborhoods that attract an unruly bar crowd, he said, have little chance of keeping families.