Alderman wants crackdown after killings outside Bucktown club; city will try to shut Dolphin down

Scene where two men were fatally shot / Photo by Ashlee Rezin
Scene where two men were fatally shot / Photo by Ashlee Rezin

Chicago Sun-Times

Bucktown Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) demanded Monday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration crack the whip against bars and nightclubs with a history of police complaints after a nightclub fight spilled out into the street and triggered the fatal shooting of two people.

The men got into a fight about 3:10 a.m. Monday inside Dolphin Chicago in the 2200 block of North Ashland Avenue and were escorted out of the club by security guards, according to police. They were standing in a crowd on the sidewalk outside when shots rang out.

Waguespack’s ward includes the Dolphin, a frequent target of neighbor complaints. The alderman wrote on his Facebook page that the nightclub, which holds a 4 a.m. liquor license, should have been closed long ago because it has been the target of chronic neighbor complaints.

“If Rahm and staff would do what they were asked several times, they would have pulled their license,” Waguespack wrote.

However, in a follow-up interview, Waguespack was far less pointed in his criticism of the Emanuel administration.

“I’m not holding him responsible for the shooting. That’s not what I’m saying. But he needs to tell his [liquor control] commissioner to drop the hammer on these places as best they can and not delay so we have more incidents like this,” Waguespack, who has endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, said Monday.

“The phones are ringing off the hook. People are calling extremely angry knowing this place has had constant problems. … They’re wondering why they’ve had constant problems and the place is still not shut down. I’m just mad because I’ve asked these commissioners repeatedly to do their jobs and nothing happens. Then, we get another shooting, another deleterious impact hearing and still, nothing happens. [Emanuel] is not responsible. But, if we pushed people and really forced them to shut `em down — that’s where his commissioners have to step up.”

Mayoral spokesperson Elizabeth Langsdorf responded to Waguespack’s demand for a crackdown with an emailed statement promising to do just that.

“The city of Chicago has continued to actively enforce at the Dolphin and, based on the two homicides last night, will bring a new case against them seeking to shut them down,” Langsdorf wrote.

“The city was able to close the business in 2010, but per a court order it was allowed to reopen. Since the business was reopened, we have been unable to shut it down again because the Circuit Court has found the business to be in compliance, but we have continued to aggressively enforce against this establishment.”

City Hall sources said the Dolphin “was written up 14 times” since 2006 — and fined an unspecified amount — for a host of violations that range from over-occupancy to operating after hours and failure to notify police of criminal conduct.

In the wake of Monday’s fatal shooting, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and Local Liquor Commissioner Greg Steadman are reviewing police reports to determine the path for charges that will be forwarded to the Law Department for filing with the License Discipline Commission. In addition to police citations, inspections will be scheduled by the Departments of Buildings and Public Health to ensure compliance.

Records show that Hodo Menetti, who is now deceased, and was the father of the current owner of the Dolphin, contributed $500 to Waguespack in November 2011.

The nightclub itself donated $2,000 to Waguespack in 2008.

Sam Menetti, current owner of the club, could not be reached for comment.

In Monday morning’s incident, one man, age 34, suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the body, and a 41-year-old man was shot in the chest. Both were pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The Cook County medical examiner’s office confirmed the fatalities but no other details were released.

A 26-year-old man shot in the left wrist was taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where his condition was stabilized, police said.

The slain 41-year-old man was identified by family members as downtown Chicago resident Elijah Moore, a father to three children, including a 7-year-old daughter.

“He was a good man,” said Thomas Gooch, who said he was Moore’s uncle. “He took care of his kids, took care of his mom, worked hard… I’m numb.”

Darris Kelly, a 33-year-old West Side man who said he was inside the club, said between five and seven people got into a fight and were being removed when he heard at least seven gunshots ring out.

“There was a fight, then we heard shots and everybody hit the floor,” Kelly said. “It was definitely scary. Chicago is crazy.”

Waguespack disclosed that Emanuel approached him at a City Council meeting in August or September of last year about another bar in Waguespack’s ward with a 4 a.m. liquor license. At the time, the mayor was holding a note from an area resident demanding the immediate shut down of a late-night bar in Roscoe Village.

On that day, Waguespack said he brought up three places, including Dolphin, and asked the mayor to crack the regulatory whip.

“I specifically said, `Tell your commissioner to get these places in order.’ What we wanted to do was get the hearings going and have the liquor commissioner hold the hearings to shut these places down. The work had already been done by police. If you look at the record on this place and other late-night bars, police are constantly responding and neighbors are saying, `What does it take–for someone to get shot to close this place down?’ ” Waguespack said.

Elijah Moore / Submitted photo

Elijah Moore / Submitted photo

Waguespack noted that the city’s so-called “public nuisance ordinance” allows three violent acts within 12 months before an operator can have his or her license revoked.

“Strictly enforce the code or strengthen the code to shut these places down or rein them in. We’re losing police resources because they have to focus on these places all the time and the neighbors bear the brunt of all the problems: shootings, stabbings, fights, garbage–all of the quality-of-life issues,” the alderman said.

During City Council budget hearings last fall, aldermen put Liquor Commissioner Greg Steadman on the hot seat about problem bars and their impact on area residents.

Waguespack was among the aldermen complaining on that day. But, he was not the only one. He was joined by a parade of colleagues, including downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and by retiring Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd).

Fioretti finished fourth in the Feb. 24 mayoral election with Waguespack’s support. In Round 2, Waguespack, a leader of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, made the switch to Garcia.

— Contributing: Mitch Armentrout

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