WICKER PARK — Representatives of a Wicker Park bar closed by police earlier this year said the city is using the business as a “scapegoat” for its “inability to control crime.”
The Point, 1565 N. Milwaukee Ave., was shut down in February when police labeled it a “public safety threat” after two shootings outside the bar in less than four months.
In a recent filing seeking subpoenas for documents and testimony from city officials concerning the closure, lawyers for The Point cast the bar and its owner, Joe Lin, as victims caught up in the city’s “failure” to prevent crime.
“The Point’s operation and mere existence is not a threat to public safety; rather, the city is scapegoating The Point to distract from the city’s failure to control the increase and proliferation of crime throughout neighborhoods in the city of Chicago, including the very area in which The Point resides,” the filing reads.
“In normal times and in normal jurisdictions where crime does not run rampant, The Point and its management would only be referred to as a victim.”
Wicker Park, like most of the city, saw a dramatic rise in carjackings and robberies during the pandemic.
The filing argues the subpoenas are necessary to provide the full picture of why The Point was closed by police, and whether the business indeed poses a public safety risk when its potential reopening is evaluated by the city.
The Point opened last summer, taking over the former Flat Iron Bar space. Lin, who also goes by Jun, also owns the bar Bourbon on Division, 2050 W. Division St.
Before The Point was forced to close, it regularly hosted live music and DJs. The bar holds a late-hour liquor license, allowing it to sell alcohol until 4 a.m. Sunday-Friday and until 5 a.m. Saturdays.
But just a few months after the bar opened, a shooting on Oct. 10 left one person dead and four others wounded outside the bar.
Police at the time said the shooting stemmed from a fight inside The Point, but Lin disputed that, saying he’d called 911 several times to get help with rowdiness on the street before the shooting occurred.
The filing says the alleged shooters did patronize The Point that night, but they were searched, ID’d and caused no disturbances before they “were completely removed from the bar, both in space and time, and completely outside the control of The Point when the shooting occurred.”
The second shooting linked to the bar occurred Feb. 6. Jordan Mendez, 29, was having a drink inside The Point after working at a nearby bar when a man fired shots into the bar, hitting Mendez below his right eye. Mendez lived but underwent several surgeries.
Lin said in February he’s increased security at the bar since the October shooting and has staff diligently checking IDs at the door.
“We’re doing everything we can in terms of being a business. We were simply victimized twice with shootings,” Lin said. “That’s violence in Chicago. I don’t think the answer is to my close business when we haven’t done anything wrong.”
The filing argues The Point was not responsible for either shooting and its shutdown is “tantamount to punishing a workplace or house of worship for being attacked by a gunman.”
“Taking away the livelihood of The Point’s owner, Joe Lin, for a criminal shooting into the establishment is like suspending a victim of a hate crime from their place of employment for being physically attacked,” the filing reads.
A representative for Lin said the city has not responded to The Point’s most recent filing, which is dated April 29. The filing states the city has objected to all of the subpoena requests.
A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection said Wednesday “the subpoena issue remains pending before the hearing officer,” and a status hearing is scheduled for Friday.
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st), whose ward includes The Point, declined to comment, saying he’s generally not permitted to weigh in on pending suits and subpoenas in front of the city.
Last summer, neighbors complained about public partying and crime on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park, with one resident calling it “the hottest club in Chicago.”
In response, the 14th Police District and La Spata instituted a temporary overnight parking ban on the street, which business owners was generally helpful.
The ban was not enforced the night of Oct. 10 shooting, but it was in place during the second incident in February, officials said.
The parking ban was made permanent by City Council in January, a decision met with mixed reactions from bar and restaurant owners on the strip.
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