WEST RIDGE — Chicago Police checking out a nondescript storefront in West Ridge walked in on an unlicensed, makeshift casino with 100 men playing cards around 10 tables loaded with casino chips, according to a police report.
There were also video gambling machines without tax stickers, and food and beer being sold without licenses, the report said.
The setup was found at 10 p.m. Sept. 11 behind a mirrored entrance at 5801 N. Lincoln Avenue, police said. The storefront sits in a strip mall between a spa and a tailor shop.
Officers walked through the store’s open doors and found the temporary gambling floor. There were piles of chips stacked in front of players or pushed into the middle of the tables, dealers flipping cards across the baize-covered tops, and men playing cards, according to the report.
Officers noted a bar with opened beer bottles and signs advertising the sale of alcohol and food. Behind the bar, a cash register rested atop an ice-filled cooler that held bottles of beer for sale, according to the report.
Isam Solaka, 45, identified himself as the manager of the storefront, police said.
According to officers, he told them the licenses for the store were kept in back, but when he walked them to the back of the shop, police found three video gaming devices offering payouts without either a state or city tax sticker affixed to the machines.
Police said Solaka could not produce state or city licenses to sell food or beverages, or proof of charter for a city social club, and was taken into custody for violating the city’s liquor laws.
Solaka’s charges were upgraded later to include failing to meet food licensing requirements, failing to license a public place of amusement, and three individual charges for operating unlicensed automatic amusement devices, according to the Police Department.
Officers documented the scene in photographs for detectives, according to the report.
The store’s front entrance, four days after the incident, was little more than a glass facade with the address painted in stark white lettering above the door. A vestibule inside the entrance was closed in by mirrored glass, reflecting Lincoln Avenue in front of it and allowing no view of the space behind. A sign with "BYOB" in bold lettering hung on the vestibule door.
A sheet of paper with black lettering identifying the spot as “Chicago Palm” was taped inside the main door. Another sign indicates the spot was open seven days a week from 5 p.m to 2 a.m.
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