WICKER PARK — A Wicker Park bar and restaurant cited for a litany of violations — including fighting, underage patrons and allowing three times as many people inside as allowed by law — has closed.
The manager of the business, however, charges that he is shutting the doors because he is tired of being unfairly targeted by police because he is black and his clientele is predominantly made up of African-Americans.
"If I do everything they ask me to do [to repair the building], what's going to stop them from harassing me?" Cervante Floyd-Nicks, manager of The New D'Vine, 1950 W. North Ave., said of city inspectors and police.
A Chicago Police Department spokesman said the club has "been cited for multiple violations," including underage drinking, over capacity and fire code violations. Police have received "numerous complaints from community residents about incidents in and around The New D'Vine which resulted in property damage to neighboring businesses," said police spokesman Martin Maloney.
"We take these issues very seriously, and CPD expressly prohibits any forms of bias-based policing," Maloney said in a statement.
Though Floyd-Nicks said The New D'Vine has two years remaining on its lease, he closed the business on Monday and laid off 13 part-time workers.
"It's over with. I'm gone. I have been run out of Wicker Park," Floyd-Nicks said.
In October, the city filed an emergency injunction to stop The New D'Vine from operating, alleging it was a public nuisance. The motion identified Floyd-Nicks as the manager with control over The New D'Vine and also named Derek Gifford as D'Vine's owner.
Last Thursday, Floyd-Nicks appeared before Cook County Judge Pamela Hughes Gillepsie and with the help of his lawyer, Daniel Rubinow, agreed to temporarily close the club rather than go through with the hearing, which was to determine if the building is hazardous.
The city allowed it to be open over one final weekend, Rubinow said, adding that his client hasn't been convicted of any code violations.
According to city documents, city fire inspectors said that on Oct. 28 they found "dangerous and hazardous" conditions in the building, including exposed electrical wiring and lack of fireproof walls.
A Nov. 5 complaint filed by city lawyer Lindsay Baker details 69 alleged building code violations, along with nine alleged instances of criminal activity that are said to have occurred on the premises between June of 2008 and September of 2014.
Rubinow said Floyd-Nicks is scheduled to appear back in court on Dec. 18 for a status hearing on the progress of repairing the building. Rubinow said that if Floyd-Nicks can demonstrate to the inspectors that the building is back up to code, he could pay a fine of $1,000 and could reopen.
But in a telephone interview on Tuesday, Floyd-Nicks said it would cost "thousands and thousands of dollars" to fix the club.
"The city said the building needs a new fireproof ceiling and we'd have to redo all of the stairs and the plumbing and basically build a new club," Floyd-Nicks said.
Floyd-Nicks said he believes "it's not an issue of safety" and bringing the building up to code. Instead, "it's just a lot of black people in the area and they don't want that crowd," Floyd-Nicks said.
Floyd-Nicks, who works as a sixth-grade teacher, said his clientele at The New D'Vine "are not riff raff" but "college kids, fraternity and sorority girls." They are "peaceful, no violence," Nicks said.
Floyd-Nicks said he has worked in the neighborhood for almost 10 years at previous inceptions of The New D'Vine, which was originally called D'Vine before briefly switching to a sports bar, 6 Corners Sports Bar. Last fall, D'Vine reopened as The New D'Vine after the sports bar did not work out, Floyd-Nicks said.
Gifford, who identified himself the owner of 6 Corners Sports Bar on his Facebook page, is not involved to the day-to-day operations at The New D'Vine, Floyd-Nicks said.
Gifford, who is described as the lease holder on the city complaint, said he has tried to sell the business but has been unsuccessful, in part because the building has been the subject of foreclosure. He said he is uncertain of his next move and his liquor license is up for renewal next month.
Michael Zucker, a lawyer for Peak Properties, which manages the four-story building that includes an adjacent sushi restaurant at 1952 W. North Ave., declined to comment on the case outside of saying that the building violations pertain only to The New D'Vine space.
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