DALEY CENTER — The once iconic Wild Hare reggae club will soon be able to host live music at its year-old Lincoln Park location, thanks to a decision by a Cook County judge Tuesday afternoon.
The Wild Hare had been operating as a restaurant and bar since August 17 of last year, but had been struggling to stay afloat while awaiting the decision on live music.
"It came down to the owners keeping it going while we paid for lawyers and paid the city fees and lost money," said William Glastris, a co-owner of the Wild Hare. "This is a very good day for reggae music in Chicago."
The music club, which had been located in Wrigleyville for 25 years until 2011, faced strong neighborhood resistance in Lincoln Park as it sought the live music license.
The city originally denied Wild Hare's request, claiming a live music license would adversely affect traffic and parking in the neighborhood and saying its late hours would have a negative impact on the character of the neighborhood.
However, the city did grant the Wild Hare a liquor license two days after the live music license denial.
On Tuesday, Chancery Court Judge Leroy Martin said that because the city later gave the bar a liquor license despite the concerns raised about the music license, the issues were moot. He ordered the city to grant the bar a music license.
Neighbors who attended the hearing Tuesday were outraged by the reversal and tensions flared outside the courtroom.
"I'm very disappointed. The neighborhood is going to take a turn now," said Carol Cloud, who lives around the corner from the Wild Hare at 2610 N. Halsted St. "It's a destination venue, a hip hop venue."
Cloud said she feared the venue would bring a rowdy element to the neighborhood and even extend the wave of crime in Lakeview south to Lincoln Park.
"We are going to have 260 people added to the mix who come by my home and continue partying," she said.
The owners of the Wild Hare — two Ethiopian-born men who toured with Ziggy Marley, a Costa Rican voting member of the Recording Academy, and Glastris, a private equity investor — claim they faced discrimination in the neighborhood while attempting to get the live music license.
Following the hearing, an angry neighbor chalked up the decision as an example of "The Chicago Way" and refused to shake Glastris' hand.
"Despite what you saw today, which was at times ugly, the neighbors have been unbelievably nice," Glastris said. "This is a small group of people among a whole bunch of really nice people."
The four owners of the Wild Hare hope to get the Wild Hare up and running as a live music venue as soon as possible, but it could be weeks or months.
"It’s a lot of work and we’ve waited a year," Glastris said. "It’s going to take further investment."
It's now up to the club's owners to work out the kinks at the venue, buy sound equipment, rehire staff and line up reggae acts to fill the stage.
At one point over the past year the Wild Hare had employed 20 people, but was forced to fire them all while awaiting Tuesday's hearing.
"It's been extraordinarily difficult, not just on us, on all the musicians, on all the people who counted on the Wild Hare to try to make a supplement to their living or their living," Glastris said.