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Wicker Park Neighbors Want Answers After 3 Shot in Drive-By

By Alisa Hauser | December 7, 2015 9:59am
 Esso in Wicker Park, 1270 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Esso in Wicker Park, 1270 N. Milwaukee Ave.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — After three men were wounded in a drive-by shooting in front of a Wicker Park club early Sunday, alarmed neighbors and business owners are asking for answers about the club's history and operations.

The club, Esso, has changed owners two times and had four name changes since 2007.

"Whatever it is, I hope the police have it locked down. I don't like gunshots near my building," one neighbor said. 

Leah Viands, a former president of the Wicker Park Committee, said,  "I think we should take a closer look at that nightclub/location and any patterns with past violence at the club. And why the name keeps changing."

On Saturday, Esso at 1270 N. Milwaukee Ave. was the site of a birthday party for Supa Soaka Mocha, according to a flier on Instagram. The party was hosted by DJs Commando and Sean Mac, confirmed Anthony Jones, owner of the club on Monday. 

Jones said he was not there at the time of the party and said he did not know who the party was for.

Supa Soaka Mocha did not return requests for comment.

According to city records, the entity "1270 Storefront LLC"  has had a liquor license since 2007;  Jones has held the license since Nov. 2011, state records show.

Shortly before the drive-by shooting on the sidewalk, staff  "called police immediately to protect clients and staff" because a fight had broken out, Jones said.

"We turned the lights on and kicked the gentlemen out of the club and a few minutes later the shootings happened," said Jones, who has been a promoter in the city for 15 years.

Previously the club was called Lava Lounge and then The Exchange, which closed in 2011 after Phil McFarland sold the license to Jones, who opened Seven Ultra Lounge, which changed names two years ago to Esso.

Jones said the name was changed to Esso because another club, Ultra Lounge at 2169 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square, had had a shooting and people were associating his business with that club due to the name similarities.

When asked for a reaction to the incident, Jones said, "Absolutely I am upset."

"We have been operating there for four years with no incident at all. It's a small club. We truly don't know what happened outside. We are cooperating with police and gave them video footage.  We are proactive, being fully transparent and fully compliant," Jones said.

"We are only open two to three nights per week. But we care about our neighbors and respect our neighbors. This sh-- is all over Chicago and it just happened to have happened on the outside [of our club]," Jones added.

On Monday, Officer Jose Estrada, a Chicago Police spokesman, called the incident an "ongoing investigation with no arrests made."

Estrada could not say if any of the injuries were life-threatening.  Two 26-year-old men were brought to Northwestern Memorial Hospital where their conditions "stabilized," Estrada said. One man had been shot in his leg, and the other was shot in his right arm and his buttocks.

Another man, 25, brought himself to Rush Hospital, where he was in "stable" condition with a gunshot wound in his right foot, Estrada said.

Adam Rosen, owner of Shuga Records at 1272 N. Milwaukee Ave., described Esso as a hip hop club that has always attracted "mainly a peaceful crowd" but often there can be "20 or 30 people people hanging out on the sidewalk out front," he said.

"They are only open three days a week. As a local business owner, it would be better for them to be open every night of the week. It makes it weird. When you think about it, what bars are only open a few days a week and can afford that?" Rosen said.

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) did not respond to requests for comment.

A flyer for a birthday party that took place on the night of the drive-by shooting in front of Esso. [fatmanbanks/Instagram]

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