GREEKTOWN — After the bars let out on Friday and Saturday nights, a two-block stretch of Jackson Boulevard in Greektown comes alive.
But the half-dozen late-night food joints near Jackson and Halsted Street are now drawing too much attention from rowdy crowds in the early morning hours, said Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th). It's become such a problem, the Greektown Special Service Area is now working with the late-night restaurants to hire private security to patrol nearby streets on weekends.
"When you and I are sleeping, those guys are open," Burnett said this week. "What happens is, a lot folks go to the nightclubs, and when the clubs close, they go to Greektown. 'The party's over, let's go to Greektown.'"
After hours, Mr. Greek Gyros, Taco Burrito King, Chinese Yum Yum, Philly's Best, Zeus Restaurant and even a 24-hour Subway, all located on Jackson Boulevard, scramble to fill orders as the crowds pour in.
In some instances, fights erupt between the often-intoxicated patrons. And a few times, shootings have occurred near the intersection, Burnett said.
In November 2012, a man was shot in his back near the intersection. In December 2012, neighbors called 911 after hearing "at least 30 shots" fired below them on Jackson.
In an attempt to quell late-night violence after the shootings, a few of the restaurants agreed to hire security to work in their establishments. But despite the internal security, violence still sometimes breaks out in the streets, Burnett said, and videos on YouTube are proof that the fights continue.
While some fights are caused by patrons leaving the bars, other fights are gang-related, the alderman said.
"You have people coming in from the South Side and the West Side, and these are people who do not get along," Burnett said. "We enjoy the popularity, but we can't have that."
Burnett said Greektown is a nice neighborhood, one where residents expect to live in peace. The problem is too big for cops to handle on their own, he said.
"These shooting and incidents occur at hours where police are trying to find bad guys in bad neighborhoods," the alderman said. "This is not that kind of neighborhood and we're not going to tolerate that."
In addition to fights, patrons picking up food double- and triple-park on Jackson, causing traffic to back up on the street, said Frank Caputo, chairman of the board that runs the Special Service Area.
Special Service Area officials are working on a proposal with the neighborhood's late-night restaurants to add street security overnight Fridays into Saturdays and Saturdays into Sundays on a two-block stretch of Jackson from Green Street to the Kennedy Expy. The security would patrol for 12-14 hours each week, Caputo said.
Under the plan, the Special Service Area would offset some of the cost of the security, with the restaurateurs picking up the rest of the bill.
The exact cost of security has not been announced, and Caputo deferred questions about the latest plan to attorney Dean Margos, who did not return calls Thursday.
Josh Cacares, a manager who works busy Friday nights at Philly's Best, a restaurant that closes at 5 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays at 769 W. Jackson Blvd., said that the restaurants seem to be on board with the latest plan the Special Service Area has presented.
"This is Greektown. Everybody knows it's the place for late-night eating," Cacares said. And while that worked for the neighborhood for years — Philly's Best has been there since 2008 — the face of the neighborhood is changing, Cacares said, as Greektown continues to add more and more residential units.
That includes the 33-story Arkadia Tower, now leasing at 765 W. Adams St. The luxury rental high-rise adds another 350 apartment units to the neighborhood.
A representative at Mr. Greek Gyros, open 24 hours at 234 S. Halsted St., declined to answer questions Thursday.
The Greektown Special Service Area board will again meet on the issue at 3 p.m. March 26 at its office on the second floor at 306 S. Halsted St.
If the restaurants don't get on board with the special service area's plan, Burnett promises to instead push for new city rules for 24-hour and late-night food establishments.
Although they don't sell liquor, Burnett says 24-hour food establishments should have to apply for a special permit similar to the permit late-night bars must land to operate. The alderman is in talks with the city's Law Department now and said some of his City Council colleagues would be on board with the proposal.
"Right now, the restaurants don't have to [apply for a permit] and it's hard to close them or take [hours] away," the alderman said.
Burnett, who said the influx of residents has fueled the late-night concerns, said he still recognizes that "all sorts of folks" work into the early morning hours, and they too need a place to eat when they get off of work.
"But when [the restaurants] become a burden on the community, then something needs to happen," the alderman said. "If they don't help me straighten this out, they have got to bear the burden of it. I'm not going to let them put people's lives in jeopardy to make a couple dollars."
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