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Fire Breaks Out at Nipsey’s, the South Side Tavern at the Center of Neighborhood Controversy

No one was injured, officials say, but the extent of the damage remains unclear

A red restaurant building with a black awning that reads “Nipsey’s.”
Nipsey’s Restaurant and Lounge opened in 2020 in the Burnside neighborhood.
Google

A fire broke out early this morning at Nipsey’s Restaurant and Lounge, the casual bar and dining spot at 9156 S. Stony Island Avenue in Calumet Heights, with flames attacking all sides of the structure. The Chicago Fire Department has yet to release information about what caused the fire, but a Tweet from around 6 a.m. reported that no one had been injured or transported to a hospital.

Founded in November 2020 by managing partner Teddy Gilmore, a veteran Chicago bartender and activist who has worked to rally his fellow Black bar and restaurant owners against racism in the hospitality industry, Nipsey’s, named after the bar in Fox’s ’90s sitcom Martin, bills itself as “the quintessential American retro bar” featuring a menu of comfort food with Cajun touches along with cocktails and a full bar.

Shortly after its debut, however, Nipsey’s presence in the area turned controversial when neighbors began to raise concerns over loud patrons, cars blasting music outside the venue, public urination, and occasional gunshots. A month after the opening, the entire block signed a petition calling for help from Gilmore and Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward).

Nipsey’s problems extend beyond neighbor complaints. In December, Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) issued the venue four citations and an order to cease live entertainment until the owners obtain the appropriate business license. Specific violations at the time included exceeding occupancy limits, failure to display a sign asking patrons to be quiet while leaving the venue, and failure to abide by its “written plan of action,” a document that lays out specific security measures and other agreements with the neighborhood. In turn, Harris told Block Club Chicago that she will not support a live entertainment license for Nipsey’s and stands by her constituents’ calls for the business’s closure.

Gilmore, who has not yet responded to a request from Eater for more information, has disputed the city’s representation of his business. In posts to social media, he’s alleged that Harris and other officials have targeted him and his businesses. He says they have refused to meet with him and have launched more than 20 unplanned inspections since April 2021. He leveled similar charges of institutional racism in 2014 when officials temporarily shut down his embattled nightclub Nouveau Tavern in River North over license issues and a “drug and gang ordinance” violation. The club permanently closed in 2015 after two years.

CBS Chicago first reported news of the fire.

Nipsey's

9156 S Stony Island, Chicago, IL (773) 801-3775 Visit Website

Nipsey's Restaurant & Lounge

9156 South Stony Island Avenue, , IL 60617 (773) 801-3775 Visit Website

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