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Portage Park Club Closed After Complaints of Drugs, Prostitution, Gambling

PORTAGE PARK — Spurred by complaints of drugs and prostitution, city officials closed a former cafe being used as an illegal social club, Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said Tuesday.

Even after officials closed the former Luxury Cafe at 5259 W. Montrose Ave. on March 15, parties continued to rage at the storefront business on Friday and Saturday nights — with the windows boarded up and people coming and going through the back door, Cullerton said.

The trouble began several months ago when the operator of the cafe, faced with dwindling profits and a construction business that needed his full-time attention, agreed to sub-lease the space near Montrose and Lockwood avenues to a soccer club, Cullerton said.

The soccer club installed illegal video gambling machines, a craps table and a stripper pole. The coffee counter was turned into a bar and alcohol was sold, even though the club had no liquor license, Cullerton said.

Neighbors complained of drug dealing, prostitution and noise near the store, which is on a residential stretch of Montrose near several apartment buildings and single-family homes, Cullerton said.

"You have kids walking past this store all day," Cullerton said, calling the closure a good example of what residents can accomplish while working with city officials. "Kids go one way to Portage Park Elementary School and the other to Our Lady of Victory school."

Working with the lease holder, Cullerton — accompanied by Chicago Police officers and city officials — entered the club Monday and discovered the illegal gambling machines, as well as a number of plastic sandwich bags.

"One of the police officers told me drug dealers use them for packaging cocaine," Cullerton said. "I didn't know that, but they sure weren't selling sandwiches there." 

Two men in the store were questioned by the police and warned to stay away from the area, Cullerton said. They were not arrested.

A number of different businesses have occupied the storefront space, including most recently an ice cream shop and a candy store many years ago.