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South Side Parishioners to March in Lincoln Park in Support of Wild Hare

By Paul Biasco | January 30, 2013 5:19pm | Updated on January 31, 2013 11:48am
 Asrat Selassie, an owner of the Wild Hare, believes racial bias is behind opposition to a live music license for his bar, which proposed free parking to address traffic concerns.
Asrat Selassie, an owner of the Wild Hare, believes racial bias is behind opposition to a live music license for his bar, which proposed free parking to address traffic concerns.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — Bishop Larry Trotter is organizing hundreds of his South Side parishioners to bus to Lincoln Park Friday night in support of the owners of the beleaguered Wild Hare restaurant.

A vigil will be followed by a march around the neighborhood to pray on street corners, including in front of the office of Ald. Michele Smith (43rd.)

The Wild Hare, a once iconic Wrigleyville reggae club, moved to a new location at 2610 N. Halsted St. in 2012 but has twice been denied a live music license.

The owners of the Wild Hare, three black men and one white man, claim they faced racial discrimination at a number of neighborhood hearings during their quest for approval to host reggae bands nightly.

Neighbors near the business claim their petitions to block the live music license have nothing to do with race, but stem from concerns about traffic.

Sean Howard, Trotter's spokesman, said the motivation for the march "first and foremost, [is] African Americans from the South Side want to show their support for the club and their struggle."

"The bishop wants to circle that neighborhood in a sign of peace and a sign of love," Howard added.

Trotter, senior pastor of the Sweet Holy Spirit Church of Chicago, plans on busing 200 to 300 people at 7 p.m. Friday to the Wild Hare, which operates as a restaurant and bar, before beginning an hourlong march around a 1-mile radius of the neighborhood at 7:15 p.m.

"We are just trying to kill racial stereotypes. That's our goal and purpose," Howard said. "Our goal is not to go with big signs and make a lot of noise."

Howard said there will be parishioners from a number of South Side churches joining in on the march.

Trotter reached out to Mayor Rahm Emanuel in January for support for the Wild Hare owners with no luck, said Howard.

"The bishop has decided this is the way he wants to communicate," said William Glastris, a private equity investor and co-owner of the Wild Hare.

The owners of the Wild Hare held their first "peace and love assembly" at the business last Friday, which many attendees of the former Wrigleyville location attended in support.

"We are here again. It appears that it's going to be a much more sizable event," Glastris said of Friday's plans.

The city had ruled against the license during a hearing on the grounds that the live music license would affect traffic and parking in the surrounding area and alter the character of the neighborhood.

When the owners reapplied for the license, the city ruled their circumstances had not changed, despite an agreement signed with a parking garage across the street that would allow for free parking.

The 260 person-capacity club was granted a liquor license two days after the public place of amusement license was denied, but the owners now await a Cook County Chancery Court date in June to argue that the live music license was unfairly blocked.

"The community really objected having it at that location," said the alderman. "That was broadcast wide and clear to the operators. The neighbors actually won. That doesn't happen very often."

The block contains a number of commercial storefronts with residences above, a Home Depot and a bar with a live music venue to the north of the Wild Hare, and the block to the south contains two blues clubs, Kingston Mines and B.L.U.E.S. among mixed residential and commercial properties.