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Funky Buddha Closed After Shootings, But Neighbors Want It Shut For Good

By Stephanie Lulay | December 12, 2014 7:58am | Updated on December 12, 2014 2:10pm
 Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W. Grand Ave., in River West.
Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W. Grand Ave., in River West.
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dnainfo/Mauricio Pena

RIVER WEST — Following two recent shootings near the club, the embattled Funky Buddha Lounge in River West will close for about a week, owners confirmed Thursday night.

At a community policing meeting, Funky Buddha co-owner Nick Stavropoulos said they voluntarily closed the club at 728 W. Grand Ave. on Wednesday and it will stay that way for seven days.

On Tuesday, Funky Buddha owners will meet with Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., Near West Side Police Cmdr. Melissa Staples and city liquor commission officials to discuss the club's operation plan going forward.

About 75 neighbors came out to the CAPS meeting Thursday, most to complain about violence they say the club has brought to the River West neighborhood. Two November shootings near Funky Buddha have prompted neighbors to call for the longtime's bar's closing, and hundreds of residents have now signed a neighborhood petition asking Burnett to work to shut the bar down.

 Donald Shedrick, charged with Nov. 9 shooting at Funky Buddha Lounge in River West
Donald Shedrick, charged with Nov. 9 shooting at Funky Buddha Lounge in River West
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Chicago Police Department

At the meeting Thursday night, Staples said that she wants Funky Buddha patrons "wanded" with a metal detector before entering the bar and the club's dress code to include a ban on hats. Patrons are currently "patted down" prior to entering the business, Stavrolpoulos previously confirmed.

Staples will push for those changes at the meeting with liquor commission officials Tuesday, she said.

Burnett said that Funky Buddha Lounge owners will be presented with several options at that meeting, including closing or selling the business. Burnett promised neighbors he is prepared to do whatever he can to stop the violence and other crime in River West.

"The city is on top of this," Burnett said after the meeting. "The city and I want the club closed." 

Outside promoters who bring "gangbangers" to the club are the problem, he said.

"When an establishment has to pat down [patrons], that's how we know there's a problem at Funky Buddha," Burnett said.

Stavropoulos said that he is willing to make changes to Funky Buddha, including changing the music in an effort to rebrand the club.

But neighbors don't want to wait for that to happen. Bob Aiken, vice president of community organization Neighbors of West Loop, said they will start the process to close the club now.

Aiken also serves as a neighborhood CAPS facilitator.

"We'll start the process now, but [closing the club] won't happen right away," Aiken said. If the club fights to remain open on Grand Avenue, the process could stretch on for 18 to 24 months, he said.

The push for closure comes after two high-profile shooting incidents connected to the bar.

Club owner admits alleged shooter was security guard

After earlier declining to discuss whether the man accused of being the shooter in a Nov. 9 incident was an employee of the bar, Stavropoulos did confirm Thursday night that Donald Shedrick worked at Funky Buddha as a security guard.

Shedrick, 47, of Auburn Gresham, has been charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm in connection with the Nov. 9 shooting at the lounge.

Up until the incident, Shedrick was a good employee, Stavropoulos said. Funky Buddha does not do background checks on security guards and hires those employees on recommendation from other bars, said Steven Stavropoulos, the owner's nephew.

Stavropoulos said that Shedrick did not have a gun on him inside the club that night. But Cmdr. Staples said video surveillance footage shows Shedrick with the gun inside the bar's "wind blocker" vestibule "plain as day."

The Nov. 9 shooting was captured on a 77-second surveillance video provided to DNAinfo Chicago.

Prosecutors said Shedrick fired five or six shots outside the club at 3:20 a.m. on Nov. 9. One bullet hit someone's coat, but that person wasn't seriously injured, prosecutors said.

After the shooting, multiple sources said that Shedrick worked at the bar, although police said he was unemployed and a gang member.

Two other men were charged with aggravated battery in connection with the shooting, including Cortney Johnson, who prosecutors said was also a bar employee.

On Nov. 30, prosecutors said an off-duty Cook County Sheriff's officer heard gunshots about 2:55 a.m. and ran toward the noise and spotted 27-year-old Fernando Lopez shooting at a group of people outside Funky Buddha.

Lopez pointed his gun at the officer, who opened fire, striking Lopez several times, prosecutors said.

A second man, later identified as 27-year-old Mario Orta, picked up Lopez's gun and pointed it toward the officer. Orta allegedly fired shots at the officer then fled, while Lopez was hospitalized with gunshot wounds, police said.

Lopez was charged with aggravated assault of a peace officer and other crimes, while Orta faces attempted murder and other charges.

Stavropoulos and police said surveillance video at the club confirms the Nov. 30 shooting was spurred by a car accident, not a fight inside the nightclub.

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