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Nipsey’s To Be Demolished After Fire Tears Through Troubled Restaurant

The Monday morning fire left the restaurant and lounge too unstable to safely stand, city inspectors said.

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 — City crews will tear down Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge after city inspectors determined a Monday morning fire left the structure too unstable.

The fire at Nipsey’s, 9156 S. Stony Island Ave., broke out around 5:40 am Monday, fire department officials said. The fire caused the roof to collapse. Officials weren’t able to get into the building because of the damage, fire department spokesman Larry Merritt said.

The cause and source of the fire are still being investigated, officials said.

The city’s Department of Buildings “has determined that the remaining portions of the building are structurally compromised and unsound, and pose an imminent threat to public safety and have therefore issued an emergency demolition order,” a mayoral spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. “DOB’s contractor will complete the demolition of the remaining structure today.”

Teddy Gilmore, one of the operators behind Nipsey’s, did not respond to requests for comment but said in an Instagram post restaurant managers were “heartbroken, distraught and beyond saddened” about the fire.

The fire occurred the day after police responded to a brawl inside the restaurant, which has been heavily criticized by neighbors and Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) since it opened in November 2020. It faced multiple city disciplinary hearings for violations of its business license.

Elisa Sledzinska, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said Tuesday the Mayor’s License Discipline Commission is reviewing 13 potential violations at Nipsey’s dating back several months.

The city’s law department is litigating 12 other violations at Nipsey’s in a separate case, according to city officials.

Sledzinska said the city is continuing to pursue its disciplinary action against the restaurant operators. A Feb. 25 hearing was postponed until Friday to give operators a change to turn over documents to the city and to hammer out a “possible resolution.” It was not clear what that would entail.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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.

Residents had 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.

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