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Wild Hare's Live Music Programs Threatened by City Appeal

By Paul Biasco | September 23, 2013 4:11pm
 The Wild Hare, 2610 N. Halsted St.
The Wild Hare, 2610 N. Halsted St.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

LINCOLN PARK — The City of Chicago has filed an appeal to once again ban the Wild Hare reggae club from hosting live music in Lincoln Park less than a month after a judge ruled against the city's original denial.

The four owners of the reggae club thought they were in the clear on Aug. 27 when a Cook County judge ruled that the city had no legal reason to ban the public place of amusement license.

An attorney representing the Wild Hare called the city's appeal "a very unusual situation" and accused the city of trying to "bleed my client dry."

"The city takes the city's resources that are your tax dollars — the money they could be using to stop shootings — and they take that money and do nonsensical appeals like this," said Thomas Raines, who is representing the reggae club.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) said she supported the city's decision to appeal the ruling, and had sent the city's law department a letter urging them to do so.

"I think the city is doing the right thing by defending its own decision," Smith said. "I certainly advocated for my residents, but at this point it really is the city's decision."

The Wild Hare, which had been located in Wrigleyville for 25 years until 2011, has been operating as a restaurant and bar at 2610 N. Halsted St. for more than a year while fighting to obtain the right to host reggae musicians.

The owners said they have been losing money and struggling to stay in business while awaiting the live music license, which is the backbone of the Wild Hare.

The Wild Hare has faced stiff resistance from neighbors of the Halsted Street location as well as from Smith.

"Everyone knows that there's a difference between a restaurant and a live music venue where there's a concert schedule," Smith said. "That's really the issue."

Raines said the latest appeal by the city could mean the end of the club.

"They are barely surviving. They thought that they had won and thought they would be getting their license," Raines said. "They are trying to use the court system to beat my client."

Raines said he has not received a date for the appeals court hearing, but anticipated that the matter would take "a couple months" to make its way through the courts.

A spokesman for the city's Law Department said his office believes the Circuit Court's decision to overturn the denial of the license was "incorrect."

Raines and the owners of the bar — three black men and a white man — have continuously argued that opposition to the Lincoln Park location was racially based, while Smith and some neighbors claimed it was based on traffic and parking concerns.

During the August court date, Cook County Judge Leroy K. Martin Jr. said that because the city gave the Wild Hare a liquor license two days after the live music denial, the concerns over the negative effect on the neighborhood and parking were unfounded.