Residents in River West have started a petition to force Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. to close Funky Buddha Lounge after a Thanksgiving weekend shooting involving an off-duty sheriff's deputy and two known gang members, according to reports by DNAinfo and the Chicago Tribune.
According to the reports, the trouble began outside of the club around 2:45 a.m. after a man crashed into a parked car and then exited waving a gun around. The off-duty officer identified himself and ordered the man to drop the gun. When the man didn't comply, the officer shot him. Another suspect picked up the gun, fled the scene, and was eventually caught by the police.
Neighbors say that this past weekend's violence is the latest in a series of incidents and they lay the blame directly at the feet of the club's owners. Those reports include a shooting in the area on November 9; in July the club's bouncers broke the legs of a man who pulled a gun on them, and there are accusations of large groups of men fighting in the street late at night.
Alderman Burnett is aware of the issues that residents have but he says that "You just can't close a bar down. You have to have due cause." He added that the "altercation wasn't related to the bar" specifically and that there is a process to how things are done.
He will be meeting with a community group at Coyne College on December 11 (at 6:00 p.m.) where he'll encourage them to attend CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) meetings. He hopes that he can work with the community and ownership to stop any further disturbances.
Funky Buddha Lounge opened in 1996 when the area was "a lot less populated," owner Nick Stavropoulos says. While the club is "known for its diversity" he still believes that they are being racially targeted since most of their customers are African-American and because the club is in a predominantly white neighborhood. Burnett stated his displeasure with the owners claim that race is a factor.
Stavropoulos says that frisking of patrons began after Illinois voted in the concealed carry law and that guards haven't found any handguns since they've begun. As for the perceived trouble, Stavropolous says that he and his staff do everything they can to ensure everyone's safety and compliance with the law.
Other Chicago establishments, such as the recently shuttered The New D'Vine in Wicker Park and Nouveau Tavern in River North have complained of being racially targeted as well.
In the case of D'Vine, the club was issued 78 citations (mostly for building violations, 9 were about alleged criminal activity on the premises) before manager Cervante Floyd-Nicks announced the club's closing in November.
For Nouveau Tavern, complaints have dogged the troubled nightclub/restaurant since it opened in October 2013. Back in April of this year the space was closed for operating without the proper licensing, with the owners alleging racial profiling at the time. Alderman Brendan Reilly has recently taken up the charge for its closure after various citations and arrests have been made involving the space.