WICKER PARK — A Wicker Park bar and music venue will stay closed until at least early August, keeping the business sidelined for a full six months in a ruling the owner says is “scapegoating” the business for Chicago’s violence problems.
The Point, 1565 N. Milwaukee Ave., was shut down Feb. 8 when police labeled it a “public safety threat” after two shootings occurred outside the bar in less than four months.
One person was killed and four others wounded outside the bar in a shooting Oct. 10.
The second shooting was Feb. 6. Jordan Mendez was having a drink inside The Point after working at a nearby bar when a man who was outside fired shots into the bar, hitting Mendez below his right eye. Mendez lived but underwent several surgeries.
Earlier this month, a hearing officer for the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection ruled a “public safety threat” did occur in February, and The Point cannot reopen until at least Aug. 8.
“The city of Chicago proved by a preponderance of the evidence that a public safety threat did occur,” according to a a report signed by Commissioner Kenneth Meyer.
But Point owner Joe Lin said he and his staff did everything in their power to protect bar patrons and staff Oct. 10 and Feb. 6, and they aren’t responsible for the violence. He said the city is making an unfair example of his bar as shootings, carjackings and other crime remain high across Chicago.
“We did nothing wrong,” Lin said last week. “We were the victims in this, and the city comes back and lashes out at the business owners. … This is nothing more than scapegoating, and I believe the hearing proves, the facts of it prove, that they are scapegoating.”
The city report provides new details about the shootings.
On Oct. 10, none of the “perpetrating individuals” in the shooting — which occurred about 3:40 a.m. — entered The Point early that morning or the previous night, according to the report. The report also gives an overview of some of the public safety issues that occurred in Wicker Park last year, including a rise in public partying and crime on Milwaukee Avenue.
“The mere unfortunate fact that some of The Point’s patrons may have gotten caught in the crossfire of several unlawful individuals who were loitering on said block at said time, cannot be attributed to The Point, anymore than it can be attributed to other businesses located on said block,” according to the report.
Instead, the city report focuses mostly on the Feb. 6 shooting to back up officials’ decision to validate the closure, emphasizing that the person charged in the shooting patronized The Point.
The man charged in the shooting was part of a group of four men who were at The Point the night of Feb. 5 and early morning of Feb. 6. Each man was “wanded” for weapons, ID’d properly and submitted to pat-downs at the door before entering the bar, according to the report.
The man bought a drink and eventually left the bar. He came back about 5:08 a.m., stood across the street and “fired several gunshots into The Point without warning and without provocation,” according to the report.
The city report lists several criteria that must be met to determine whether a “public safety threat” occurred: that a violent offense occurred at an establishment; that the offense includes the establishment’s owner, staff, patrons or “otherwise involves circumstances having a nexus to the operation of the establishment;” and that the police superintendent determines that “continued operation of the establishment presents a danger to the public.”
The city report focuses on the second of those criteria. Officials said that because the Feb. 6 shooting occurred within a “nexus to the operation” of The Point, the closure should be upheld, even though the shooter submitted to security and left the bar before the shooting.
“Nevertheless, said perpetrator is observed on video purchasing one drink from the bar with his own credit card leaving, [the] establishment and returning almost immediately thereafter to a location across the street from [The Point] wherein he proceeded to fire several bullets into the establishment … thus, the nexus of a patron causing a public safety threat as those prevailing terms are you find under the Municipal Code of Chicago, are satisfied,” according to the report.
But the night of the shooting, the bar’s staff did everything right, and they used video to identify Montgomery on social media, which helped lead to his arrest, Lin said.
Lin said the report issued by the city essentially backs that up, and the city’s reasoning rests only on the crime occurring within the “nexus” of The Point.
Under that standard, the city’s logic could be applied to anyone doing business within proximity to violent crime, Lin said.
“If you read the body of the [hearing] ruling, I’m guilty of not being able to read a person’s mind of what they do after the fact, that’s all. How can I reasonably predict what someone’s going to do after they leave my establishment?” he said.
A spokesperson for the City’s Law Department declined to comment on ongoing litigation.
Lin said he plans to reopen The Point after the Aug. 8 restriction lifts, but he doesn’t have an exact date or timeline. The bar was cited by the city for several building code violations earlier this year; Lin said those have been taken care of, but he’s waiting for a final inspection.
When Lin does reopen, he’s considering changing The Point’s operating hours, he said.
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.
“We are eventually going to open up,” Lin said. “I want to reopen up on my own terms, and right now on Milwaukee Avenue, I do not feel safe to be opened up to 4 a.m. I’m not sure even being open until 2 a.m. is safe over there right now. So I’m going to take my time.”
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