How to address a problem business

Trash pickups before 7am were discussed in a meeting of business owners and neighbors.

Getting action on a problem business in Chicago takes a track record: calls to 9-1-1 and 3-1-1.

Alley noise complaints led to a meeting this month with residents and business in the 2000 block of West Division Street. Ald. Proco Joe Moreno facilitated agreements to stop overnight trash dumping or pickups before 7am, to keep containers locked and close to buildings, and to clean the alley.

Police and inspectors check out complaints and can fine a businesses for violations. The owner also can be called in to City Hall for a "remediation conference” with the alderman, police and a city attorney. The meetings try to resolve problems and show how they put a business license is at risk.

Actions for neighbors are outlined in a flier from Chicago's Business Affairs & Consumer Protection department:

  • Call 9-1-1 to report illegal activity and nuisance behaviors: noise, fighting, drinking and loitering, public urination and defecation, drug sales, gambling, prostitution, and intimidating passers-by.
  • Urge neighbors to call 9-1-1. The number of calls logged in the city database tell police and regulators what's happening at a specific location.
  • Call 3-1-1 to report nuisance conditions and bad business practices: This includes outdated food,overcharges, unstamped cigarettes, sale of single cigarettes, sale of tobacco products to minors, sale of drug paraphernalia, unsanitary handling of food, insect or rodent infestation, overflowing dumpsters, trash and debris. Make sure to ask for the “SR #” so you can track what happens to your complaint. A database collects information from each call, which gives city regulators a better picture of what is happening at that business.
  • Document the nuisance issues: Take pictures of the nuisance conditions all around the business: trash & litter outside, windows covered with signage, loitering, etc. Make sure to note the time and date the photo was taken. This documentation can be used to bolster community reports of illegal and nuisance activity at that location.
  • Work with your alderman: Contact your alderman’s office to report and discuss the problem business. Make sure the alderman is aware of any illegal activities and nuisance issues surrounding the business in his/her ward. An alderman may contact the business or the police to discuss issues at that location.
  • Attend CAPS meetings in your community: Contact the district commander to inform them of the issues occurring on or near the premise. Many of these issues are addressed at CAPS meetings.
  • Request a community meeting with the City: Organize with neighbors to request the City’s Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection begin the public nuisance process regarding the business.
  • Letters from 5 residents or the alderman sent to the BACP commissioner or the Local Liquor Commissioner will initiate a BACP investigation of the business, to determine how the issues complained of will be best addressed.
  • Attend all community meetings and court hearings you receive notice for to make your voice heard. Be specific about conditions that affect you, your family, and your community’s safety and well-being.

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