Update: This ordinance passed out of licensing committee on Monday, January 22, 2024. Also, the link to the ordinance is not working and I can’t find another way to link to it on the City Clerk’s legislation database. The version that passed out of committee reduces the radius from 2 miles to 1 mile and reduces the threshold for fresh and frozen food to avoid the radius minimum from 40 percent to 10 percent.

Update 2, February 22, 2024: A substitute ordinance was passed by City Council yesterday; the thresholds described in the paragraph above were established but the distance separation clause was amended so that only dollar stores of the same owner are banned within one mile. In other words, and this is dependent on the definition of “controlling person” in the code at section 4-4-005, a Dollar General could not open within one mile of a Dollar General or a Dollar Tree, but a Family Dollar could. A new map is shown at the end.

Ald. O’Shea (19th Ward) has proposed an ordinance with 35 cosponsors that would ban dollar stores within two miles of another dollar store and within 1/8th mile of an “R” zoning district. The ordinance number is O2023-0004978; read the PDF of the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance would amend the zoning code in chapter 17 as well as add business license regulations in chapter 4 of the Municipal Code of Chicago. The new business licensing section would establish strict rules on “excessive loud noises” and trash accumulation at dollar stores, and even regulate what people outside the store could be doing, as well as require a site plan review by the planning and transportation departments (something usually only required when there is a driveway, drive-through, or larger development).

The city codes would include dollar stores under the new definition of “small box retailer”, which excludes Walgreens and gas station mini marts.

Specifically, “small-box retailer means a retail store (a) with a floor area between 5,000 and 17,500 square feet; (b) that sells at retail an assortment of physical goods, products, or merchandise directly to the consumer, including food or beverages for off-premises consumption, household products, personal grooming and health products, and other consumer goods; (c) that continuously offers and advertises a majority of the items in their inventory for sale at a price less than $5.00 per item; and (d) that does not: (i) contain a prescription pharmacy, (ii) sell gasoline or diesel fuel, (iii) primarily sell specialty food items, or (iv) dedicate less than 5% of shelf space and display areas to food sales.”

The proposal’s purpose is spelled out in the preamble, which makes some judgements about the prevalence of dollar stores in Chicago.

WHEREAS, The City of Chicago (“City”) is a home rule unit of government under Article VII, Section 6(a) of the 1970 Constitution of the State of Illinois and, as such, may exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs, including, but not limited to, the power to regulate for the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare; and

WHEREAS, There is a proliferation of small-box retailers, such as Dollar Tree, Family Dollar (which is owned by Dollar Tree), and Dollar General, in urban areas, including the City, where small-box retailers are clustered in and around South and West Side neighborhoods; and

WHEREAS, Although small-box retailers can fill a need in communities lacking basic retail services, growing evidence suggests small-box retailers are not merely a byproduct of this economic distress, they can often be a cause of it; and

WHEREAS, By saturating communities, particularly majority-Black urban neighborhoods, with multiple stores, small-box retailers’ business strategy often makes it impossible for independent and local grocery stores to open, or, indeed remain open, in a community; and

WHEREAS, Small-box retailers are not a meaningful alternative to local grocery stores, often devoting minimal, if any, floor space to fresh, wholesome foods, and offering low-cost, single serving, highly processed foods that are in actuality much more expensive per ounce; and

WHEREAS, In addition to these negative economic impacts, small-box retailers also tend to attract higher inc dences of crime, theft, and other negative effects on the public health, safety, and welfare, suc as littering and the accumulation of waste far exceeding the dumpster space provided by small-box retailers; and

WHEREAS, Regulating small-box retailers is necessary, desirable, and in the public interest by promoting stronger, more resilient neighborhoods and protecting the public health, safety, and welfare of our Cit ; now, therefore:

Natalie Moore wrote a column in the Chicago Sun-Times about some of the impacts of dollar stores in the city.


If this ordinance went into effect, new dollar stores would only be allowed in the green areas of Chicago. Additional areas would open up if the proposed dollar store would dedicate ≥40 percent of shelf space to fresh or frozen food. This map only considers “Big Dollar” stores and not independent dollar stores that might meet the parameters in the proposed ordinance.

The map below shows 150 locations of Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and Family Dollar stores. Family Dollar is part of Dollar Tree.

The green areas show the parts of Chicago where a new dollar store that follows the default “two mile minimum” rule would be allowed. The proposed ordinance has a provision that if 40 percent or more of shelf space is dedicated to fresh or frozen food then that new dollar store only has to be one mile away from any other dollar store.

It’s possible that dollar store companies could erect stores that are smaller or larger than the floor area standard in the proposed ordinance that would otherwise capture them into the “small box retailer” definition.

A map based on the approved substitute ordinance, showing 1 mile buffer areas, is shown below.