Chicago City Council Votes to Rein In Dollar Store Development

Date: 21 Feb 2024 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

On Wednesday, February 21st, the Chicago City Council voted 42-7 to enact an ordinance that will limit development of new chain dollar stores and will make it easier for residents to report dollar store code violations and other problems.

The ordinance, introduced by Alderman Matt O’Shea, will prohibit a new dollar store from being developed within one mile of an existing dollar store owned by the same company. Over 60 other cities and towns have enacted similar ordinances in recent years, but Chicago is the largest city to date to do so.

The ordinance also includes a requirement that each dollar store post its district manager’s contact information in a prominent location in the store so that shoppers can report problems they encounter with the store, such as overflowing trash or crowded aisles.

O’Shea introduced the ordinance after receiving many complaints from constituents about the unsafe conditions and poor appearance of dollar stores in the city. Like several other city council members, O’Shea contacted the dollar store chains to ask them to make improvements, only to be ignored or rebuffed. His draft ordinance initially included a provision that would allow the city to suspend the business license of a dollar store that racks up two or more safety or nuisance violations, but he faced intense pressure from Dollar Tree lobbyists to remove this from the final ordinance.

ILSR Senior Researcher Kennedy Smith testified at a public hearing for the proposed ordinance in January, highlighting the many problems that chain dollar stores have created in other communities, from siphoning off sales from full-service grocery stores to attracting violent crime. Tulsa City Councillor Vanessa Hall-Harper, who championed passage of a similar ordinance in her city in 2018, then led the charge to develop North Tulsa’s first full-service grocery store in more than a decade, also testified, saying that no national grocery chain would locate in her district because it had so many dollar stores.

You can also read Vanessa Hall-Harper and Kennedy Smith’s Chicago Tribune editorial on why stopping the proliferation of dollar chains is crucial to eliminating food deserts.

Photo Credit: Alderman Matt O’Shea’s office

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Follow Susan Holmberg:
Susan Holmberg

Susan Holmberg is Senior Editor and Researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Independent Business Initiative. She writes on corporate power and inequality and has been published in the New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, The Nation, and Democracy Journal.

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Follow Kennedy Smith:
Kennedy Smith

Kennedy Smith is a Senior Researcher for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance's Independent Business Initiative. Her work focuses on analyzing the factors threatening independent businesses and developing policy and programmatic tools that communities can use to address these issues and build thriving, equitable local economies.