WICKER PARK — City Council approved a permanent overnight parking ban designed to limit public partying and crime on a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.
Sponsored by Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), the ordinance bans parking 10 p.m.-5 a.m. Thursday-Sunday in the 1400 and 1500 blocks of North Milwaukee Avenue.
That strip, which runs from Wolcott to Damen avenues, is home to many bars and nightclubs, and has become a hot spot for public drinking and partying in recent years.
The parking ban was temporarily put in place in 2021 between Division Street and North Avenue after business owners and neighbors complained rowdy, late-night partying was leading to criminal activity.
“Once the pandemic hit, I don’t know what happened, somehow Milwaukee Avenue became the hottest club in Chicago,” Alma Weiser, who runs Heaven Gallery, 1550 N Milwaukee Ave., told Block Club in October.
Last summer, local bar owners said the ban had been an effective tool at preventing rowdiness along Milwaukee.
The ban was not enforced Oct. 10, when one person was killed and four others wounded in a drive-by shooting in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue.
Police at the time said they were told tow trucks were busy clearing the route for the Chicago Marathon, although a spokesperson for the Department of Streets and Sanitation said the agency never received a request for towing.
La Spata told Block Club earlier this month that since then, his office has been working with the 14th Police District and Streets and Sanitation to make sure officers can effectively enforce the ban going forward.
La Spata said he has “weekly communications with the officers who are patrolling Wicker Park on Friday nights and communicating between them and Streets and Sanitation to make sure that they have the resources that they need for enforcement.”
“That’s been really productive,” he said. “I think we’ve built the relationships and expectations that make sure that those resources are in place.”
The temporary ban is being enforced while the Chicago Department of Transportation installs signs on Milwaukee Avenue, Sgt. Mike Edens said.
But the permanent ban will be enforced only in the 1400 and 1500 blocks of North Milwaukee Avenue. The temporary ban stretches from Division Street to Damen Avenue.
“Most of the issues and problems have been on that 1500 block, which everyone keeps calling it that Bourbon Street atmosphere. So it’s 14 and 15 we’re going to enforce,” Edens said. “We haven’t had any issues with the 12 and 1300 blocks. We’ll see if summer, if that shifts down there, then we’ll have to address that as it comes, but we don’t want to make the whole corridor of Milwaukee no parking after 10 o’clock.”
Edens said in the wake of the Oct. 10 shooting when the ban was not enforced, 14th District officers have been working with La Spata’s office to make sure they can get tow trucks to the area.
“We’re working more with the alderman’s office as far as helping us facilitate those requests. There have been times when, if the tow trucks haven’t arrived, I know some of the officers have reached out to the alderman’s office, as far as helping expedite the trucks to come out there,” Edens said.
Jeremy McDevitt, general manager of Nick’s Beer Garden, 1516 N. Milwaukee Ave., said the public safety situation on Milwaukee Avenue has greatly improved since last summer, and he praised the efforts of local officers.
But McDevitt said while the parking ban has played a role in making things safer, he wishes the city could find the “best of both worlds” — stopping crime while letting people park on the strip on weekend nights.
“Not being able to pull up and park in front of businesses that customers want to go to is not an ideal scenario,” he said. “For us, the hope was that they were able to get more resources and help take control of the area without having to go to a permanent ban. Because still, the street looks like a ghost town when all the cars are gone.
“If we can have it the way we wanted it, it would be to find a way to get the bad players out of that area, and also have the ability to have our customers drive to us.”
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