BURNSIDE — Controversial South Side restaurant Nipsey’s has been slapped with even more citations for violating the terms of its business license, pushing back a potentially crucial hearing to determine whether the business can stay open.
Representatives with Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge, 9156 S. Stony Island Ave., are scheduled to appear in a disciplinary hearing before the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection on Feb. 25. The proceedings originally were scheduled for January but were postponed after the city added several other complaints to the case.
Nipsey’s, which opened November 2020, has gained a reputation in the community among longtime neighbors as a rowdy “bar disguised as an eatery.” Neighbors said patrons leaving early in the morning block parking spaces, dance on top of cars, urinate on people’s homes and leave trash.
“Every Friday and Saturday, we hold our breaths,” a resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said in December. “I’m just so angry. I don’t know what’s going on, but we are all taxpayers. We want Nipsey’s to respect us as homeowners. We don’t feel respected.”
After months of residents’ complaints, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), whose ward includes Nipsey’s, has supported shutting down the restaurant. But Teddy Gilmore, one of the entrepreneurs behind the restaurant, said he’s hoping he can settle the matter amicably with Harris without involving the city.
In December, Nipsey’s owners received four citations and an order to stop “unlicensed (public place of amusement) activity,” referring to a business license required for things like live entertainment, music venues and DJs.
The business was dinged for exceeding allowed occupancy, failure to adhere to a written plan of action, failure to produce a logbook of reported illegal activity to police and failure to display a sign asking patrons to quietly leave.
The city since has added nine other complaints relating to the business’ operations, all stemming from violations in December, but a spokesperson for the business department would not provide more details. The city is monitoring Nipsey’s for potential unlicensed activity.
City records show the restaurant’s business license listed under Dina Porter. Attempts to reach Porter for comment were unsuccessful, and a city spokesperson did not answer questions about whether they’ve been in contact with Porter during disciplinary proceedings.
Gilmore, managing partner at Eat & Drink Too, is who most residents associate with Nipsey’s. He previously had two businesses shut down for issues similar to those Nipsey’s faces.
Gilmore’s DrinkHaus, a restaurant and bar in Greektown, was closed in 2019 after failing to adhere to its operation plan. His Nouveau Tavern in River North closed in 2015 after receiving a “drug and gang ordinance nuisance” notice from City Hall.
Harris said she was aware of Gilmore’s prior reputation with neighborhood businesses, but she decided to “give a brother another chance.” But as neighbors’ concerns about Nipsey’s poured in, Harris said Nipsey’s needs to be “gone and closed.”
At a January community meeting hosted by Harris, she said Nipsey’s has been “a nuisance and a danger” to neighbors who live near the restaurant.
“I believe in shutting businesses down if you can’t come and be a decent property owner and respect the community that has to live here and be here 24 hours,” Harris said. “When you are not here, those problems do not exist.”
Gilmore said he’s tried repeatedly to meet with Harris to discuss how he can better conduct business. Every attempt has failed, he said.
“I have tried over and over again, and I have not been able to speak with Ald. Harris at all,” Gilmore said. “We invited her out, and she won’t come. She doesn’t want to come because she doesn’t want to confront the truth. She wants to keep people divided.”
Alvin Rider, chief of staff for Harris, said the alderman met with Gilmore and other city departments in August to discuss longstanding problems with the restaurant.
Once they explained the issues, everyone “seemed to be on the same page,” Rider said. The months following the meeting proved otherwise.
Harris said she “has no interest” in meeting with Gilmore again. Leaders at Nipsey’s signed a Plan of Operation before opening, and they must follow it without exception, she said. Rider said Harris also believes she should be meeting with the “real owner” who is listed, instead of Gilmore.
When Gilmore opened Nipsey’s, he wanted to “bring something nice to the neighborhood and community,” he said. The restaurant is one of the only sit-down eateries in the area, he said.
Gilmore said some of his patrons might act inappropriately outside of his establishment and he doesn’t support it, but it’s just how a “younger generation” acts. And the lack of parking spaces is “the price of having a successful business,” something the alderman should want to see, he said.
But the past few weeks have been filled with repeated inspections and “intimidation tactics,” Gilmore said.
“It’s become a nightmare because they’re playing parlor tricks, and I was trying to have a legitimate, great business,” Gilmore said. “They’re coming in to inspect our business 40 or 50 deep, which is very intimidating and intimidating to the community that I service. How many times am I going to get raided and inspected?”
What matters most in the days ahead is to sit down as a team with the community and the alderman to decide how to please all sides, Gilmore said.
“I’m not all the way gone, but they’re doing a hell of a hit job on us, and I’m spending X amount of money to try and defend myself against these type of allegations,” Gilmore said. “But why would the alderman want this business closed?
“What do we need to do to sit down and work through the issues we may have, Ald. Harris? Instead of hiding behind business affairs, you have my personal number.”
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: