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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Silver Room Block Party Built On Positivity, But Neighbors Raise Concerns About How To Handle ‘Knuckleheads’

One business owner who says his employee was punched last year called for more security ahead of the July 20 party.

A previous Silver Room Block Party.
Silver Room Block Party
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HYDE PARK — Ahead of the annual Silver Room Sound System Block Party on July 20, Hyde Park residents met Wednesday to learn more about the fest’s logistics and security plan.

Aldo Rojas, general manager of fusion restaurant Chant, 1509 E. 53rd St., had an especially pressing concern — he’s hoping to end a streak of assaults from rogue festival attendees.

Two years ago, while trying to maintain order as his small restaurant reached capacity, someone pulled his shirt and tried to punch him in the face, Rojas said. A year later, his assistant was pushed and punched.

Rojas said he loves the block party, and he feels his concerns were sufficiently addressed at the meeting — for the most part. He expected organizers to bring on more than the 74 announced security officers for this year, especially after the issues he’s faced in years prior.

“It’s not everybody … but the knuckleheads are always there,” Rojas said. His complaint was “just out of concern for my staff, for the restaurant — nothing else.”

Keiana Barrett, a spokeswoman for the block party, assured attendees that in addition to the contracted security officers, about 300 volunteers would be on hand to be the event’s “eyes and ears.”

Events manager Kenneth Pickett apologized to Rojas for the incidents, and said the event team was striving for perfection with security and logistics.

Yet he said organizers could plan for, but not control, everyone in attendance — as he had said earlier regarding requests that no one drive personal vehicles to the event.

“All we can do is mitigate,” Pickett said. “We can’t stop people from doing stuff.”

Other concerns raised by residents included road closures, parking and ride-sharing, which were sore points for neighbors nearest to the block party last year.

The party will shut down 53rd Street between Dorchester and Lake Park Avenues. Traffic aides will be posted around 52nd Street, Woodlawn Avenue, Lake Park Avenue and 54th Street to inform motorists of upcoming closures.

A decision has not yet been made about offering parking decals to nearby neighbors who can show proof of residence. Barrett said initial responses were indifferent to the decals, but that they would be used again this year if enough residents found it beneficial.

An attendee suggested using multiple staging areas for ride-shares like Uber or Lyft, which Pickett said would be taken into serious consideration. Right now, the sole designated ride-share location will be on Lake Park Avenue, “close to 55th Street.”

Alds. Sophia King (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) were in attendance at the meeting, which was held at St. Paul & the Redeemer, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave.

The block party, first launched in 2002 and themed “For the Greater Good,” is scheduled from 10 a.m.-9 a.m. on Saturday, July 20. More details can be found at the event’s website.

Downtown Hyde Park Chicago Special Service Area #61 and the University of Chicago are partnering with the Silver Room on the block party.

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