BURNSIDE — A city hearing to review over a dozen license violations at Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge has been pushed back in the wake of a fire that ravaged the controversial South Side establishment.
Representatives for Nipsey’s, 9156 S. Stony Island Ave., appeared in front of the Mayor’s License Discipline Commission Friday afternoon.
Citing the “substantial fire” Monday that caused “substantial damage to the building,” Nipsey’s attorney Francis Ostian asked for the hearing to be rescheduled for March 25. The fire damage would make it “impossible to do any operations at the establishment,” Ostian said.
Hearing officer Brian Porter called the fire an “unforeseen circumstance” and agreed to postpone the hearing.
Elisa Sledzinska, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said the commission is investigating 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.
Firefighters responded to Nipsey’s around 5:40 a.m. Monday, with the flames collapsing the roof, fire officials said. Investigators have not determined where or how the fire started, spokesman Larry Langford said Thursday. The Office of Fire Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are continuing to investigate, Langford said.
The city’s Department of Buildings issued an emergency demolition order of the restaurant Tuesday, determining the structure was too unstable and posed a risk to public safety, a mayoral spokesperson said.
Crews were on scene Friday tearing down the building.
Teddy Gilmore, one of the operators behind Nipsey’s, did not respond to requests for comment but said in an Instagram post the team was devastated about the fire.
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. Ostian also represented Nouveau Tavern during its legal battles with the city, according to the attorney’s website.
Nipsey’s, which opened in November 2020, has faced criticism from 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.
Ald. Michelle Harris (8th), whose ward includes Nipsey’s, 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.”
“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.”
Gilmore said he felt Nipsey’s was being unfairly targeted and that Harris refused his efforts to try to work out their differences amicably.
Weeks before the fire, he asked the alderman for a meeting to decide how to proceed with the community and business’ best interests in mind.
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