(Crystal A. Proxmire, Sept. 5, 2015)
Breaking out the bubbly, and the vodka, was more than just a celebratory act for the Attisha family and their customers at Sahara Restaurant. It was the reason for the toast itself. Until last week there were no restaurants in the city limits legally able to serve spirits. But Zeana Attisha changed all that.
In 2012 Attisha started a campaign committee called Citizens for a Strong Oak Park. This group worked hard to educate the public and elected officials about the economic and community-building benefits of allowing restaurants to serve alcohol.
In 2013 Oak Park City Council permitted the sale of beer and wine, and in 2015 the issue of liquor went to the voters and passed by over 58%. The celebration last Thursday was to commemorate the arrival of the first shipment of spirits and the opening of the first bottle.
Mayor Marian McClellan was on hand to thank Attisha and her husband for their efforts. “Our wonderful business owners are not just thinking about themselves, they’re thinking about the whole community of Oak Park and how to make it better,” the Mayor said. “They could move. They could go to a different city. But they stayed here and they made change.”
Though Sahara now has locations in Sterling Heights and Warren, Oak Park is the city where they got their start. It is also the only place where they could not get a liquor license. “Sahara is an established Mediterranean restaurant that has been in Oak Park since the early 1980s. Our success is mainly attributed to our specialty fresh cuisine and a loyal customer base,” Attisha said. “Now our patrons can come here and have a glass of wine with their dinner – or a martini!”
City manager Eric Tungate stressed that the move was for economic benefits of the city, and talked about how the attraction of national chain restaurants and trendy local places can be a part of Oak Park’s future. “In the coming years here’s where we’re going to go. We’re going to b e a much more walkable city. We’re going to be a much more economic development orientated city. You’re going to see sidewalk cafes in our community. You’re going to see an emphasis put on our residents so they can walk from their neighborhoods and get to restaurants and establishments around the area.”
Attisha and Mayor McClellan opened the first shipping box of vodka together, with excited family, restaurant staff, patrons and officials looking on. “We can toast to a prosperous new beginning for Oak Park, its citizens and its patrons,” she said.
Sahara is located at 10 Mile and Coolidge in Oak Park. Find out more at http://www.newsahara.com/. Note: Sahara is also an advertising sponsor of oc115.com.