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McNally's Cuts Band Off Due to 'Too Many Black People,' Musician Says

By Quinn Ford | February 26, 2014 12:09pm

MORGAN PARK — A musician is claiming a South Side Irish bar cut short his band's performance over the weekend after saying "there are too many black people" in the bar.

Brandon Bailey, a member of the Reprieve Blues Band, said the group had been booked to perform at McNally's, 11136 S. Western Ave., on Saturday night.

After performing two of three sets for a large crowd, Bailey said the band's saxophone player was told the show was being cut short.

"The owner basically gave us our compensation, told us that he was shutting it down for the evening, and when asked why, he responded that there were too many black people in the bar," Bailey said.

Bailey, the sole African-American member of the band, said Saturday was his second performance after joining the group a few months ago and said he had invited friends and family to come to the show.

"I pushed really hard to have as many supporters come out and see what I was up to and just kind of support my new musical endeavor," he said.

Many of those supporters were African-American. After hearing why the show was ending early, Bailey, who plays trumpet and sings for the group, wrote about the incident on his blog, sparking heated replies on social media.

Bailey said Michael Cummings, who the band believed to be the owner of the bar, called the show off and made the racial comment.

State records show Erin Cullom holds the liquor license for the bar and is listed as the owner of the company that runs the bar.

But Illinois Secretary of State records show Michael Cummings listed as the company's agent.

In his blog post, Bailey also made claims that Cummings was a Chicago police officer. According to the department's rules of conduct, officers are prohibited from "engaging directly or indirectly in the ownership, maintenance, or operation of a tavern or retail liquor establishment."

A police department internal affairs investigation has been launched after Bailey's accusations, police spokesman Adam Collins said. It is not immediately clear if Cummings is currently a police officer, Collins said, but if the allegations are proven true, he would face discipline.

Racist remarks or actions made by an officer — on or off duty are — also grounds for discipline, according to the department's rules of conduct.

Employees of the bar declined comment on Bailey's accusations both Tuesday and Wednesday. Attempts to reach Cullom at the bar and her home were unsuccessful. Attempts to reach Cummings were also unsuccessful.

After what happened Saturday, Bailey said he would not return to McNally's to perform in the future.

"I don't have malicious will towards McNally's or that owner," he said. "I think what happened here needs to be addressed ... the hatred, the ultimate root cause of this entire situation is really what we need to be focusing on."

The Beverly-based musician who runs a non-profit when he is not performing said he was not surprised by the heated comments in response to his blog post. He said he believes racism is "something a lot of other people experience" in Chicago.

"At the end of the day, if we can have a real dialog about the change that needs to happen, both in this city and across the country, then I think that it is well worth it."

Contributing: Wendell Hutson