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Nipsey’s Restaurant — Facing City Crackdown Amid A Slew Of Violations — Badly Damaged In Fire Day After Brawl

Nipsey's has been heavily criticized by neighbors who say the restaurant attracts fighting and disruptive behavior. City officials have hit the restaurant with numerous citations for violating its business license.

Units from the Chicago Fire Department, ATF, Illinois Fire Marshal Arson Investigation and a demolition crew respond to a fire that caved in the roof of Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge in Burnside on March 7, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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BURNSIDE — A fire broke out at Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge on Monday, the day after a large fight at the business, which the alderperson has pushed to shut down because of neighbor complaints.

Firefighters responded to reports of flames around 5:40 a.m Monday at Nipsey’s, 9156 S. Stony Island Ave., department spokesman Larry Merritt said.

The fire caused the roof to collapse and officials weren’t able to get into the building because of the damage, Merritt said. It took firefighters about an hour to extinguish the flames, Merritt said. 

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Units from the Chicago Fire Department, ATF, Illinois Fire Marshal Arson Investigation and a demolition crew respond to a fire that caved in the roof of Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge in Burnside on March 7, 2022.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, Merritt said. The building is still standing but crews on the scene could be seen using heavy equipment to clear out blackened parts of the interior Monday afternoon.

Nipsey’s operators could not be immediately reached Monday, but Teddy Gilmore, one of the entrepreneurs behind the restaurant, said in an Instagram post the team was devastated about the fire.

“We are heartbroken, distraught and beyond saddened to learn of a fire that happened at Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge early Monday morning,” the statement read. “We are grateful that our staff and our community are safe. We appreciate those of you who that have reached out in support. Right now, we’re just trying to understand what happened and what the next steps are. Our thoughts are with all of our team members and all who are affected by this devastating news.”

Alvin Rider, chief of staff for Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) whose ward includes Nipsey’s, said the alderwoman was “shocked” when she heard about the fire. Officials at the Chicago Police Department notified Harris and her team about the situation, Rider said. 

“It’s unfortunate that a beautiful, historic building is damaged,” Rider said. 

It was not clear whether the building could be salvaged. A spokesperson for the city’s buildings department did not immediately provide more information.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

Police responded to a brawl at Nipsey’s early Sunday morning, the day before the fire, a spokesperson confirmed.

Officers came to the restaurant after a 29-year-old man confronted someone to retrieve a lost bracelet, the spokesperson said. The two argued and it escalated into a physical fight, the spokesperson said.

Videos posted to social media show multiple fights breaking out inside the restaurant, with people punching, kicking and shoving each other as security guards and other bystanders try to break things up and force people to leave.

Officers also found a gun in the parking lot, police said. Someone tossed the gun before driving away from the restaurant heading south, police said.

Nipsey’s, which opened in November 2020, has faced fierce criticism from Harris and neighbors in recent months.

Residents have called for Nipsey’s to be permanently closed, citing loud music and disruptive patrons who urinate on and trash their homes, start fights and clog parking in the area. Harris, who said she wanted to support having a Black-owned business in the area, also has pushed to close down the restaurant because of the persistent problems.

“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 at a January community meeting. “When you are not here, those problems do not exist.” 

RELATED: Citing Fighting, Loud Music And Public Urination, Alderman Vows Crackdown On Nipsey’s — And Neighbors Want It Closed

Gilmore, the person most neighbors associate with the restaurant, 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 needed to be “gone and closed.” Gilmore said he felt Nipsey’s was being unfairly targeted and that Harris refused his efforts to try to work out their differences amicably.

The restaurant’s operators have been hauled into multiple disciplinary hearings with the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, facing several citations for violating its business licenses. The city slapped Nipsey’s with four citations in December, and another nine in February. 

Rider said city officials pushed back a Feb. 25 hearing as they and Nipsey’s attorney worked on an agreement. Another hearing was scheduled for March 11, Rider said, but it’s unclear whether that hearing will go forward in the wake of the fire. A BACP spokesperson could not immediately provide more information.

RELATED: Will Nipsey’s Be Shut Down? City Slaps South Side Restaurant With More Citations As Alderman Pushes To Close ‘Nuisance’ Business

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Units from the Chicago Fire Department, ATF, Illinois Fire Marshal Arson Investigation and a demolition crew respond to a fire that caved in the roof of Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge in Burnside on March 7, 2022.
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

A neighbor who lives near Nipsey’s said she has “mixed feelings” about the fire. For months, patrons at the restaurant have wreaked havoc on the area, partying outside of neighbors’ homes into the early morning, fighting and blocking parking spaces, she said. Neighbors felt “unsafe” and she sometimes heard gunshots in the area, she said.

She also wanted the restaurant shut down, but when she woke up this morning and saw the flames from her window, she said she felt sad.

“I was shocked. It’s sad, as well, because an establishment that could have been used for good is gone,” the neighbor said.

After a slew of complaints from nearby community members, the neighbor said she hoped Gilmore and the community could reach an agreement on how to continue forward in each other’s best interest, she said.

But now that the building is badly damaged, it will be an “eyesore” in the community and she hopes a new business will take its place, the neighbor said.

“That location is a great place, and I’m not sure why it had to come to this,” she said. “I’m hoping the next business the alderwoman allows to come into the community will be useful and a benefit to us.”

Another resident who asked to remain anonymous also said she was disappointed in how Nipsey’s has affected the area. After more than five decades in her home, she never had trouble in the community until Nipsey’s came to town, she said.

If Nipsey’s does not rebuild, the neighbor said she hopes the alderwoman leaves the space empty because it would mean she could have “peace of mind again,“ she said.

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