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Chicago City Council approves new restrictions on dollar stores

CBS News Live
CBS News Chicago Live

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance that will place new regulations on dollar stores in Chicago.

The ordinance prohibits so-called "small-box retailers" from opening within one mile of another such store owned by the same company. It passed by a vote of 42-7.

The restrictions apply to any store between 4,000 and 17,500 square feet that "continuously offers or advertises a majority of the items in their inventory for sale at a price less than $5.00 per item," but exempts gas stations, pharmacies, pawn shops, flea markets, thrift shops, and other various specialty shops. The rules also provide exemptions for so-called "small-box retailers" that set aside at least 10% off their floor space to fresh produce, meat, seafood, and dairy products.

Dollar stores are also required to display signs listing the name and emergency contact information for both the store's owner and license holder, and stores must carry an insurance policy of at least $1 million.

There are 23 licensed Dollar General stores in Chicago, and about 60 Dollar Tree locations, and 66 Family Dollar locations, according to an analysis of active business license data from the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Dollar Tree acquired Family Dollar in 2015, so the firm collectively owns more than 120 in the city, mostly on the city's southwest and northwest sides.

More than 90 of those stores are within a mile of each other, or about 75% of all Dollar Tree-owned stores in Chicago, according to a CBS data analysis of store locations. Only 2 of the 23 Dollar General stores are within a mile of each other. 

Those stores would not be affected by the ordinance as it only targets the creation of new stores from the same owner.

Since 2018, there were more than a thousand 311 complaints to addresses of dollar store locations, according to an analysis of 311 data. That includes more than 200 sanitation complaints, nearly 70 rat complaints, and more than 300 business complaints, including 13 for outdated merchandise. There were also more than 100 complaints alleging building violations.

The ordinance was introduced by Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th). Back in September, O'Shea called for a total moratorium on new dollar stores in Chicago. 

He complained about dirty lots and trash overflowing at existing Dollar Tree stores in Morgan Park, Beverly, and Mount Greenwood.

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