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Funky Buddha Club, Site of Shootings, Now Permanently Closed: Alderman

By Stephanie Lulay | February 18, 2015 7:51am
 Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) says the embattled Funky Buddha Lounge in River West is closed for good.
Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) says the embattled Funky Buddha Lounge in River West is closed for good.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

RIVER WEST — After two high-profile shootings near Funky Buddha Lounge, the bar has closed for good, the neighborhood's alderman said Tuesday.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said he was told by city officials and police late Monday that the River West club at 728 W. Grand Ave. had permanently closed.

Burnett said the owners of the Funky Buddha gave their keys to the rented location back to the building's landlord.

In an e-mail received by Bob Aiken, vice president of Neighbors of West Loop, and addressed to four Near West District police officers, Chicago Police Sgt. Juan Clas said the Funky Buddha was "officially closed."

"The owner agreed to lock up and remove the current tenants," Clas said, referring to the lounge.

 Donald Shedrick, a former Funky Buddha employee, was charged in a Nov. 9 shooting at the lounge.
Donald Shedrick, a former Funky Buddha employee, was charged in a Nov. 9 shooting at the lounge.
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Chicago Police Department

Before the building's owner rents out the club location, the landlord has agreed to contact the city, he said.

In another e-mail to Aiken, Barbara Gressel, deputy commissioner with the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said the owner of the Grand Avenue building informed the city's Law Department that the Funky Buddha was now closed. The landlord has the key, she wrote.

Reached Tuesday, Funky Buddha co-owner Nick Stavropoulos said the bar still had a liquor license, but he declined to answer other questions. The president of Buddha Bar Inc., the group that owns the Funky Buddha, is Alexander Arezina, according to state records.

The push to close the Funky Buddha Lounge came after two November shootings near the bar. In one of the incidents, the shooter worked at the bar, authorities allege.

Stephanie Lulay discussed neighbors reaction to the fall shooting:

In an effort to end the violence, hundreds of residents signed a neighborhood petition asking Burnett to work to shut the bar down.

After outrage from the neighborhood, the Funky Buddha voluntarily closed its doors for seven days in December. Less than a week later, Burnett said that the bar's co-owner planned to sell the business and agreed to close the bar within 10 months.

The Funky Buddha reopened at some point, and was open for business on New Year's Eve and Jan. 3, according to the club's Twitter account.

Aiken, who also serves as a CAPS facilitator for the neighborhood, said the club's closing is a victory for River West residents. While neighbors had started the city process to close the club, the process could have stretched on for years, Aiken said.

"[The owners] had planned on selling [the business], or closing and rebranding, and we're just happy that we won't have to continue to go through this," Aiken said. "It sounds like [the Funky Buddha owners] are just walking away."

Burnett said that he does not know what will next occupy the Grand Avenue location, but he said that the River West area is in "high demand."

Alleged shooter out on bond

Donald Shedrick, 47, of Auburn Gresham, was charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm in connection with a Nov. 9 shooting at the lounge. Stavropoulos confirmed Shedrick worked at Funky Buddha as a security guard.

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. Nov. 9. One bullet hit someone's coat, but that person wasn't seriously injured, prosecutors said.

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

Shedrick is now out on bond, according to Jan. 26 court records, but faces nine felony charges in the case. Shedrick is next scheduled in court at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in Room 306. 

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

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

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