SOUTH SHORE — A famed South Side gay bar is barring patrons younger than 30 years old, playing less hip hop and closing an hour earlier after a hit-and-run driver killed three men nearby earlier this month.
Jeffery Pub owner Jamal Junior announced the changes Thursday night during a tense community meeting to discuss security concerns about the bar and safety for LGBTQ people on the South Side. The Brave Space Alliance and the Mind, Body and Soul Health and Wellness Circle hosted the meeting with neighbors, patrons, police officials and local politicians.
Customers must now prove they are at least 30 years old to get inside Jeffery Pub, raising the minimum age from 21, Junior said. Instead of closing at 5 a.m. Saturday and 4 a.m. other days, Jeffery Pub will close at 3 a.m., Junior said. More ambient sounds will replace hip hop music, he said.
The changes come as Junior works with police on a plan to ensure the safety of patrons inside and outside the bar, 7041 S. Jeffery Blvd. The changes are already in effect, Junior said.
The age requirement drew broad criticism from people in the crowd, as some noted the person charged in the hit-and-run is 34.
Junior “is going to face a lot of criticism for changing the age range and receive a lot of backlash from the younger community, who are not at fault but are being penalized for this,” one resident told the audience.
The crash occurred about 5 a.m. Aug. 14.
Tavis Dunbar, a patron of Jeffery’s, got into a car and intentionally drove into a crowd of people fighting on Jeffery Boulevard, going almost 60 mph as he rammed into people, prosecutors said.
Dunbar was charged with three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder this week. Donald Huey, 25; Devonta Vivetter, 27; and Jaylen Ausley, 23, were killed. A fourth victim, Carlee J. McKinney, is recovering from his injuries.
Some attendees pushed back on the Jeffery Pub’s new age requirement, saying violence isn’t a youth-related issue, but Junior defended the changes. More police will patrol the area on days larger crowds are expected, Junior said.
“I figure that once you reach a certain age in life, you should learn how to handle yourself,” Junior said. “My security guards who are outside the perimeter of Jeffery Pub cannot control the sidewalks and the streets. It’s very difficult for the Police Department to control it. Before pointing fingers, look at the facts.”
Some also questioned police why it reportedly took more than 20 minutes for officers to arrive to the scene and nearly an hour to respond to an initial call of an assault in progress at Jeffery Pub.
Lt. Yvonne Irvin said the 3rd District is one of the most challenged in the city when it comes to having enough officers to meet the needs of the area. The district is down to 80 officers, many of whom have been working 16-hour shifts for weeks, she said.
“We have numerous things going on … major gang conflict, people getting shot on any given day. We have some of the most beautiful homes right up the street in the Highlands, and then we have Jackson Park, which takes a lot of manpower,” Irvin said.
Others said there are disparities in how LGBTQ communities of color on the South Side are treated compared to LGBTQ+ people on the North Side, particularly when it comes to supporting the youth, who were absent from Thursday’s meeting. Organizers promised to include young people going forward.
“I know our mayor is investing many funds and resources to the West and South sides for a lot of different things, but none of it is earmarked for LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations. If we cannot get it now when you have an LGBTQ representative in office, when will it happen?” asked Antonio Brown, an LGBTQ liaison for the city’s health department.
Representatives from City Hall and police, along with state Reps. Lamont Robinson and Kam Buckner, said they’ll do what they can to keep the community safe and bring in resources for LGBTQ+ people. Robinson said he and Buckner have been trying to secure $15 million in funding for a queer youth center on the South Side.
While the discussion had moments of tension, Keith Green, interim director of the Black Gay Men’s Caucus and coordinator for the Mind Body and Soul Wellness Circle, said it was a start to making change.
“I have to be hopeful. It was an important first step, but it’s just that — the first. There’s a lot or work to be done, but there were nuggets put out tonight. We need the police but that can’t be all we focus on,” Green said. “We really have to be intentional about that, and engage young people about that, as well.”
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