Wal-Mart moves into the West Loop

By Vanessa Morton

Wal-Mart, one of the largest private employers in the United States, continues to make its mark in the Windy City. The constantly evolving corporation has built its first Chicago small-scale store at the Presidential Towers, 555 W. Madison St., in the West Loop.

As black tarp obscures windows in an attempt to keep the new space private, months of construction are finally complete. However, the company faces some city zoning issues that may affect the outcome of the store’s sales. While the date has yet to be determined, Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd Ward) plans to discuss his thoughts on the store in a public meeting.

Despite some of the complications, the new “Neighborhood Market” is still set to open on Sept. 21, according to Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo.

“We are going to open on Sept. 21 regardless,” Restivo said. “We look forward to soon providing customers living and working in the West Loop with a new option for fresh, affordable groceries.”

At 26,491 square feet, the downtown store is a representation of Wal-Mart’s “Neighborhood Markets” concept—which fulfill the needs of quick shoppers on the go—rather than a discount or super store that accommodates larger areas.

According to Restivo, the store will be approximately two-thirds groceries, consumables and pharmacy, while the rest will be an assortment of general merchandise. The store will also employ nearly 100 employees.

However, after the doors open to the public and customers begin to shop, they’ll realize liquor is missing from the shelves. The store currently resides within an area that has a moratorium on selling packaged liquor.

Typically dealt with during City Council meetings, moratoriums are created to restrict the number of liquor licenses that can be awarded to various locations and businesses throughout the city.

Efrat Stein, director of communications at the Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection, explained that, ultimately, aldermen have authority

over moratoriums.

“[Moratoriums] are placed by aldermen and can also be lifted [by them],” Stein said. “Generally, aldermen would lift a moratorium for [a] business they want to accommodate or that will add to the economic growth in that area.”

Although Fioretti declined to comment, Stein explained that moratoriums are normally placed on a two-block radius and some even encompass an

entire ward.

“But typically, they [have] a certain radius where they are placed,” she said. “And when it’s removed, a moratorium is lifted for an entire block, not just a specific location.”

While Wal-Mart plans to continue with the store’s opening, it is still unclear whether or not their sales will be affected by the moratorium. Restivo had no comment on whether or not the sales would be in jeopardy if the alderman decided not to lift the moratorium. However, he did explain that the company would continue to work with the city of Chicago through this ordinance.

“I mean, it’s just an area that we wouldn’t be selling,” Restivo said. “While there is a moratorium on licenses for sale of packaged alcohol, we are talking to the alderman’s office and the local community to determine whether our new store can sell beer, wine and spirits like our retail counterparts.”

When Fioretti holds the meeting regarding the new store, he will discuss the pros and cons of changing the ordinance. Restivo said there isn’t a specific time frame to get the liquor moratorium lifted.