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City balks at longer store hours

The city’s zoning staff is recommending that aldermen tonight reject a request from the owner of the Marathon gas station at 555 Howard St. to operate its convenience store 24-hours a day.

The city’s zoning staff is recommending that aldermen tonight reject a request from the owner of the Marathon gas station at 555 Howard St. to operate its convenience store 24-hours a day.

The store has been the subject of complaints by some nearby residents and by Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, over reports of unruly behavior in and around the station.

When city zoning staff investigated the business recently, they discovered that the convenience store had been operating 24 hours a day, apparently since the current owner, Hafiz Yaqoob, acquired the station in 2006.

The special use ordinance for the business, adopted in 2005, calls for the convenience store to operate only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and not at all on Sundays.

The ordinance doesn’t limit the hours during which gas can be sold at the station.

Daniel Shapiro, an attorney for the store owner, says that the business does nearly $8 million in sales annually and pays over $100,000 a year in gas tax and property taxes to the city.

Shapiro argues that the mini-mart is "an essential component of the ongoing business" but didn’t specify what portion of the total revenue for the station comes from convenience store sales.

Shapiro also says three other gas stations in south Evanston have convenience stores that are open 24-hours a day.

A police department report says there have been three to five incidents at the station in each of the last several years in which officers concluded the operation of the station played a role in the incident — ranging from station employees allowing people to loiter around the building to employees refusing to sign complaints about an aggressive panhandler.

Those are only a small portion of more than 400 total police calls for service at the station’s address during the past five years.

The report, by Officer Bonifacio Maldonado, of the department’s problem-solving team, said that calls for service have decreased recently since police discussed the situation with the owner. He said the owner and his brother, who’s also involved in the station’s operation, "have responded well to our recommendations and are both willing to develop and maintain a strong partnership with the Police Department."

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