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Ald. Maldonado Moving to Shutter 'Thuggish' Gang Club, Despite Red Tape

HUMBOLDT PARK — Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said despite his desire to shut down a seedy private club where a man was shot and killed Sunday morning, his hands are tied.

The alderman, flanked by local business owners, pastors and members of the community, held a press conference outside the club at 2504 W. Division Street Wednesday morning to address the murder and other problems with the club.

The club has long been known to harbor not-so-savory characters and, according to a police source, is a regular hangout for Spanish Cobras, whose territory surrounds the club.

Maldonado, too, has known about the club's reputation since he became alderman in 2009, but said he and police could do nothing because of an odd loophole in the law that allows the club to operate as a state-chartered private social club.

Chicago police had no jurisdiction to enter the establishment, Maldonado and police have said, unless a call of a fight or incident was made from inside the club. Otherwise they had to treat it like a private residence and could not go in if denied entry.

"There absolutely nothing we can do with a place like that," the alderman told the gathered crowd. "But we are going to fix that law."

He said he intended to create a city ordinance to require that such state-chartered social clubs obtain some type of permit from the city to operate.

They would not be able to require a business license, however, because they are not businesses, Maldonado said.

The club was known to serve alcohol without a liquor license, but the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection generally investigates liquor complaints in the evenings and not in the wee hours of the night when the club was said to operate — sometimes staying open until 8 a.m.

Some members of the community said they are frustrated that the alderman has not already acted as there have been other shootings outside the club, according to police.

"It was never mentioned that this was an issue for the state to take on," wrote Ozden Esme in an email to DNAinfo. "If that had been the case, community members would have urged him to contact state officials to conduct an investigation, or he could have done so on his own, on behalf of his constituents."

Local resident Miguel Vasquez, 44, said he was frustrated that the club still existed after his cousin, Freddy Vasquez, had been shot dead after leaving the club.

"Every Friday night you come here at 6 a.m. and they're literally kicking each other's butts out here," he said. "It shouldn't have taken someone to die in this place to get it shut down."

Vasquez said he has been inside the club and described the atmosphere as "very thuggish."

As to whether it was a Spanish Cobra hangout, he said it was really open to every one, something that's not allowed for a state-chartered private social club.

"They labeled it with a gang affiliation, but it was open to everyone — but this is Spanish Cobra territory," he added.

Maldonado said he did tell community members about the state-charter issue but reiterated that he was helpless.

"The city is handcuffed from being able to do anything," he said. "This is a loophole for these thugs.