All roadblocks to the Village of Oak Park’s 24-hour gas station ban have been cleared. The lawsuit filed against the village on behalf of seven Oak Park gas stations was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it is the judge’s final ruling on the case.
While village staff have not publicly announced the dismissal, which was entered March 21 by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil H. Cohen, the village is satisfied with the result.
“We are pleased with Judge Cohen’s ruling in the case,” said Paul Stephanides, Oak Park village attorney.
The gas stations could have appealed the decision but did not do so within the required 30-day window, meaning the case is now officially closed. Wednesday Journal has reached out for comment to a representative for the gas stations, as well as their attorneys Samantha Ditore and John Ellis of Chicago-based law firm Ellis Attorneys.
The ban, which limits gas stations’ hours of operation from 5 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily, was passed last September to limit increased violent crime perpetrated at 24-hour gas stations, most notably the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Jaelyn Logan-Bledsoe last June outside of the BP station at 100 Chicago Ave.
The group of gas station owners and managers filed the lawsuit against the village Sept. 27, arguing the ban was unconstitutional. The gas stations further alleged the ban violated their property rights by effectively revoking their business licenses, as well as violated the Contract Clause in the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting them from carrying on their contracts with fuel suppliers.
Cohen’s ruling refuted the unconstitutionality claim, writing that no fundamental right was at issue in this case nor does the ordinance involve any class of individuals who have historically been subject to discrimination. He further asserted the gas stations had not provided any evidence to support the argument the ban would have any impact on decreasing violent crime committed in Oak Park.
The judge likewise contested the alleged violation of property rights and the Contract Clause, writing no business licenses were actually revoked and the village is not a party to any of the contracts at issue.
Cohen used several legal precedents to uphold his ruling.
The ordinance has received wide support by members of the community, as well as the owners and managers of Oak Park’s 7-Eleven convenience stores, who requested and were granted inclusion in the ordinance, citing several armed robberies that occurred within their shops.
The village was not immediately able to enforce the ban due to a temporary restraining order filed by the legal team representing the gas stations that was granted Sept. 30. Cohen rescinded the order Nov. 15 and enforcement began. Wednesday Journal has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to determine whether any gas stations have violated the ban since it went into effect.