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South Loop Nightclub Shut Down for 60 Days After Fatal Shooting: Alderman

By Josh McGhee | March 31, 2015 2:46pm
 The Riff Music Lounge, where one man was fatally shot and another was injured.
The Riff Music Lounge, where one man was fatally shot and another was injured.
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DNAinfo/Mauricio Pena

SOUTH LOOP — Just three days after a man was killed and another man was wounded in a shooting at Riff Music Lounge in the South Loop, 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell said the club will be shut down for two months.

Dowell said she spoke with the property owner, the owner of the bar and Chicago police Monday before deciding to close the club at 2239 S. Michigan Ave. for 60 days, "which will give me and the city time to tweak their business model and contract licenses."

"The activity that happened there is unacceptable," she said. "I am very concerned about what happened and can't afford to have that kind of activity on Motor Row or anywhere else in the city."

Dowell, who inherited the area where the after-hours club is located in the most recent ward remap, said she never heard any complaints about the lounge until Saturday's shooting.

"You can't wait until something happens then start complaining about it," Dowell said, adding "we're not going to let these events hurt [Motor Row], what is going to be the go-to entertainment spot in Chicago."

Police said two men in the club got into an argument over a woman shortly before 1:30 a.m. Saturday. One man was thrown out, but he later returned with a gun and fired multiple shots, striking the 36-year-old man he was arguing with and another man, 39, before leaving, police said.

The 36-year-old, later identified as Michael Ricks of the South Loop, was shot in his abdomen and taken to Northwestern Hospital, where he later died. The 39-year-old, who was not involved in the argument, was also shot in the abdomen and drove himself to Stroger Hospital, where his condition later stabilized.

Kenny Johnson, who opened Velvet Lounge in the South Loop two years ago, said the shooting was an isolated event and not a step back for the budding entertainment district.

"It's just an unfortunate incident, and I don't think it's going to happen again anytime soon. There's problems in River North and on Division Street, but that hasn't curbed away any businesses," Johnson said.

Johnson, who worked as a promoter before opening his bar, said "City Hall needs to crack down on promoters" and create a license for them, which would "cut down all of this," referencing recent shootings at Dolphin and Sawtooth in the West Loop.

Two shootings near Funky Buddha Lounge in November prompted neighbors to call for the longtime River West bar to close. In February, Ald. Walter Burnett confirmed the bar had closed for good.

"It's crazy out here with all these shootings. Every bar or restaurant in the city has incidents, but shootings are another animal. [When shootings happen] you got to take a look at who you're inviting, what promoters you're using and what kind of crowds you're bringing in. You have to do your due diligence as an owner," Johnson said.

Shannon Waldron, a promoter for Urban Fetes, hosts a weekly event for young professionals at Riff called Recess Saturday but canceled Saturday after the shooting at the club that morning.

"The whole thing is devastating. All I'm thinking about is the family. I'm just shocked," said Johnson, whose marketing agency shares the same address as Riff.

Waldron, who has held Recess Saturday for more than 1½ years, said he felt "victimized" by the shooting, which is now a tarnish on his record, though "Urban Fetes was in no way associated with" the shooting.

He said his event was for young professionals, "a chill time for fashion, music. It was networking with a twist, and it went the entire time without a hiccup," Waldron said.

"You get grouped with the bad apples," Waldron said. "You're a great promoter that helped build this club, and it just crumbles. It shouldn't be that way."

Waldron, who lives in the South Loop, said he's spoken to the owners of Riff, but hasn't made a decision on whether he'll maintain his ties to the club, saying it was too early to make a long-term decision. After an event like this, he said he'll evaluate how to "use this platform to do something positive" for the community, he said.

Tina Feldstein, president of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, said the incident is both disturbing and devastating.

"It's disturbing when this happens anywhere in the city," Feldstein said. "But it's not like we don't want entertainment in the South Loop. That's what Motor Row is supposed to be, and that's what makes a neighborhood vibrant."

Neighbors had complained about loud patrons and litter among other things near Riff, but never filed formal complaints, she said.

After the shooting, the group was reluctant to say the bar needs to be closed, but it did need to be re-evaluated, she said.

"It's not one of those things like 'Get out of my neighborhood,'" Feldstein said. "This kind of thing is not good for anyone. It's not good for their business and it's not good for the community."

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