Little Village Discount Mall vendors face eviction Sue Owner – NBC Chicago
A group of vendors at the Little Village Discount Mall have filed a lawsuit against the mall owner and one of the mall’s management companies, they announced Tuesday.
The lawsuit seeks to keep the vendors in business inside the mall until a judge can determine whether the vendors are legal tenants of the mall or simply licensees who can be summarily shut down.
“These people are tenants. At a minimum, you should give them the basic legal rights that any tenant should have,” Ramsin Canon, the class attorney, told a press conference at City Hall.
The group of around 40 vendors had been told by the mall’s owner, Novak Construction, that they would have to vacate the mall by March 26. The vendors’ management, PK Mall Inc., told the group if they didn’t leave in time. , their goods could be confiscated.
Canon said the ownership and management companies view the group as “licensees” of the mall, rather than tenants, meaning they can be closed at will.
“It’s absurd,” he said. “Some of these people have been here for over 30 years.”
If a judge determines the sellers are in fact tenants, they could stay in place until their lease expires, Canon said. He added that they had all signed annual leases at different times, meaning they wouldn’t all have to leave at the same time.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, is the latest action by the group as it seeks to stay in the mall at 26th Street and Albany Avenue.
Last Thursday, dozens of vendors came from the Lower West Side neighborhood to demonstrate outside the Northwest Side offices of Novak Construction. Additionally, at a press conference in February, the band promised they would take legal action if Novak did not work with them to find a solution.
At last week’s protest, a company representative “made it clear” to the group that he would not let them stay at the mall, a salesman told the Sun-Times. Also, on Tuesday evening, the signs in the mall were repainted.
The vendors’ treatment enraged many in Chicago’s immigrant community.
“We are here to express our strongest condemnation of the inhuman order that Novak wants to carry out,” said Netza Roldan, head of the immigrant advocacy group Binational Institute of Human Development.
“Not only will this action affect many small businesses, it will also destroy a community,” he said. “This served as ‘Times Square’ for many years.”
Elvira Arellano, a longtime immigration activist known for seeking refuge from deportation at a church in Chicago, said the mall should be protected for its cultural significance.
People from all over the country, she said, would come to the mall because of its unique offerings and atmosphere, which for many immigrants felt like home.
“They came to identify with this love that is Mexico,” she said.
Michael Loria is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for Americaa non-profit journalism program that aims to strengthen the newspaper’s coverage of South Side and West Side communities.