To the Editor:

Over a decade ago, in April 2011, we extended our closing time at Open Produce, 1635 E. 55th St., from 12 midnight to 2 a.m.

Everyone thought we were crazy — they already thought we were crazy for staying open until midnight — but as I wrote at the time, "If you like our new hours, the best way to ensure they stay around is by voting with your feet!" And for nine long years, Hyde Parkers voted with their feet.

But then came the pandemic.  And with it, a 9 p.m. curfew on beer and wine sales — a questionable attempt to keep people from gathering in liquor store parking lots.

Eventually the curfew was moved to 11 p.m. even when bars could operate indoors until 2 a.m., now devoid of any pretense of pandemic-related public health and solely a tough-on-crime "public safety" measure.

We kept our hours the same to allow for social distancing and because we thought things would be back to normal soon. But weeks stretched into months.

Then, in June 2021, City Council made this a permanent ban on retail sales of liquor after midnight with a nonsense tough-on-crime motivation.  Both the 4th Ward and 5th Ward aldermen voted for the new ordinance.

We were willing to hold out for a while to weather a temporary disruption, but after almost two years and a permanent change in the law, it's time to respond to the sales data. Beer and wine is a small fraction of what we sell, but it helped us stay open late at night. Without that boost, we are no longer making money after midnight.

December 23rd was our last night closing at 2 a.m. From now on we will close at midnight.

To all of the night-owl students, second-shift restaurant workers, and parents who ran in to get milk for the morning — and to the person walking home at 1 a.m. who felt safer because there was an open business on the block — I'm sorry we won't be open until 2 a.m. anymore.

The city's liquor ban was intended to increase public safety, but it's having the opposite effect.  Our neighborhood will be less safe with fewer eyes on the street.

Steven Lucy

Owner, Open Produce

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