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Wild Hare Vigil Brings in Former Reggae Performers

By Paul Biasco | February 2, 2013 8:33am

LINCOLN PARK — What was planned to be a hundreds-strong march in support of Lincoln Park's Wild Hare, ended up as a small vigil of reggae artists, fans of the venue and a few South Side parishioners Friday night.

Bishop Larrry Trotter who planned the march in support of the Wild Hare's quest for a license to allow for live music, said the low turnout was due to the frigid temperatures and a vigil near his Sweet Holy Spirit Church of Chicago church for Hadiya Pendleton who was killed Tuesday.

Trotter said the gathering and vigil at the Wild Hare, 2610 N. Halsted St., was a move to gain the attention of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"I wrote a letter to the mayor and I’m kind of shocked that he has not responded one way or another with the history the Wild Hare has," Trotter said. "It’s not like a new business opening up. It’s a business that’s been out here 25 years."

The Wild Hare has been denied a public place of amusement license during two hearings and is awaiting a Cook County Chancery Court hearing in June to appeal the ruling. Trotter said he got involved after the owners alleged they faced racial discrimination during community meetings to discuss the Wild Hare.

"These are men who are employing people at a time when people need employment," he said. "When I got to know them I felt like I needed to stand with them."

While they wait, the reggae scene in Chicago is left without what was once considered one of the top reggae clubs in the country when it resided at a location on Clark Street in Wrigleyville.

Andrea "Drea" Variames estimates she sang at the Wild Hare about 1,000 times over about 25 years at the Wrigleyville location, including the last two nights before it closed May 15, 2011.

"This is my family. This is my home," she said during the vigil Friday night. "This is my family and this is why I'm here."

Neighbors who live near the Wild Hare have argued that they have no opposition to the Wild Hare operating as a bar and restaurant, but fear a license to allow live music will bring traffic and unruly patrons to the block.

The business has been running as a restaurant and initially hired 19 employees when the owners, but without the live music license business has been slow and there are now only four employees.

"We put people on hold now because obviously we don’t have the volume of traffic we should have. That’s not counting the bands," said owner Joel McCarthy.