WICKER PARK — Late night bars are not hard to come by near Wicker Park’s six corners, but some residents fear a stretch of Division Street that is typically quiet after 2 a.m. will soon become like Rush Street and Wrigleyville — with drunken bar patrons carrying on in the streets until 5 a.m.
The owners of Innjoy, a bar and grill at 2051 W. Division St., are trying to obtain a late hour liquor license from the city, which would allow them to stay open until 5 a.m. on Sunday and 4 a.m. the rest of the week. But first, they need signatures of support from 51 percent of registered voters living within 500 feet of the bar.
On Wednesday, neighbors gathered at the bar to learn more about the application process. They were greeted with free drinks from bar owners.
"I was hoping to get some answers and to learn more about what's going on, not get schmoozed," said Adam R. 31, a civil engineer who asked not to be named fully.
Adam and his neighbor, Steve K., 46, both own condos just around the corner from Innjoy, in the 1200 block of North Hoyne Avenue. Last year, the first late hour liquor license in the area was granted to The Shambles, a bar directly across the street from Innjoy. So far, Adam said he is not thrilled with his late night neighbors.
"We hear Shambles all evening and in the morning when they throw the bottles out," Adam R. said. "I do not mind the drunk people walking on the street, but it's the people peeing in the alley or the fights. Nothing good happens at 5 a.m."
Despite opposition from many of the neighbors in attendance Wednesday, The Shambles was granted a late night liquor license by the Liquor Control Commission on Nov. 2, 2011.
The bar had first applied for the license as early as June of 2010, but was unable to gather the required signatures after two attempts. The third time, however, they succeeded, and with Ald. Joe Moreno’s (1st) approval, they were able to stay open until 4 or 5 a.m.
Innjoy owner Joe Hathaway said The Shambles’ extended hours is the reason they are applying for the late hour license.
“It’s driven by business,” Hathaway said. “People are here and we’re pushing them out [at 2 a.m.] and they go across the street.”
Innjoy attorney Nir Basse was unable to say how many signatures they have obtained from neighbors so far.
Jennifer Lipford, a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said the city liquor control commission and the alderman's office are aware of Innjoy's application, which was filed Sept. 27.
"We're very confidant that [Ald. Moreno] is aware of our application and are also very aware he takes community feedback into consideration, too. We've had two forums with neighbors and met with the chamber Thursday and told them that any questions or concerns we would be happy to be contacted," Basse said.
Another Division Street bar owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said the bigger question is "What do we want [Division, west of Damen] to look like" at 4 a.m.?
He said late night bars change the character of a street.
"It's a late night license life jacket" he said, adding that he feared an atmosphere like Rush Street or Wrigleyville, full of people "annihilated on Bud Light and Patron shots."
Other neighbors echoed these concerns.
"You are a strong business, great neighbors, never been a problem and we're not here to punish you," Xan Aranda, 36, a filmmaker, told Innjoy co-owner Jacquelyn Hathaway Wednesday. "I think it should be known that you are using [Shambles] as a reason to get a 5 a.m. license and that's what I'm concerned about. I see an epidemic coming."
Jacquelyn Hathaway assured Aranda that Innjoy takes precautions to ensure its patrons aren't rowdy, and illustrated the fact that there is a large clientele of women who go to Innoy that just want to have fun, often on bachelorette party trollies.
After the gathering, Aranda said drinking and dancing is not what worries her.
"They kept trying to sell us on the fact they are a good business. I was glad to hear their practices, that 'when people are drunk we cut them off,'" Aranda said. "A lot of clientele are women, well that doesn't mean anything. I don't care, women can pee in the alley too. Just do good business. Be a good neighbor. Close at 2 a.m."