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Man Killed Near Wicker Park Club Esso Identified; Owner Vows to Close Bar

By Alisa Hauser | November 21, 2016 9:58am | Updated on November 21, 2016 4:01pm
 A man who was shot and killed early Sunday had been at Esso and was walking to his car when he was fired at, local police said.
A man who was shot and killed early Sunday had been at Esso and was walking to his car when he was fired at, local police said.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — The days are numbered for Wicker Park nightclub Esso following the shooting death of a man walking to his car from the club early Sunday.

Not only is Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) furious about the slaying, which happened around 3 a.m. Sunday in the 1300 block of North Moorman Street, but the club's owner is also thinking of jumping ship. 

"I am working with the city law dept. to shut them down permanently," Moreno (1st) said on Sunday. 

Moreno said he will either attempt to gradually close the club through the deleterious impact public nuisance ordinance or — if the city law department agrees — with Moreno, he'll "seek to immediately shut it down."

Located at 1270 N. Milwaukee Ave., Esso has shifted ownership twice and had four name changes since it opened in 2007.

Its Facebook page describes Esso as "Chicago's Newest and Sexiest Nightlife Destination."

Last winter, three men were wounded in a drive-by shooting in front of the club, an incident that alarmed neighbors and business owners who wanted answers about the club's history and operations.

After those shootings, Esso owner Anthony Jones said that he was working with police on the investigation.

On Monday, Jones said he was "very disappointed" over the tragic death, so much so that he wants to get out of the bar business.

"This is the worse thing that can happen to a bar owner and I'm going to get out of the business, Chicago is nuts right now," Jones said.

On Monday, the man was identified as Matthew Rodgers. The Cook County Medical Examiner's office had no address on the victim.

Jones, who said he left work for the night by the time the shooting happened, said that there were no issues on Saturday night inside the club but after talking with his security guard, he learned that the man who was killed had just recently got out of jail. He was walking to his car when he was shot. 

"We don't know for sure and are assuming that [the shooting] was a retaliation," Jones said.

Jones put Esso up for sale last December through the Kudan Group. Even with a price reduction to $129,000, Jones said that he is still having difficulty attracting a buyer. 

"After that last incident [shooting], I put it on the market and I wish somebody would have made a decent offer," Jones said.

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.

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 he hopes to shut the club down himself before the city gets involved,

"All it takes is one little incident. If I lived around here, I would not want this happening either," he said. "It's not just here, it's the whole city. I get it, I respect the neighborhood. I hope they just let me shut down proactively on my own without the city getting involved."



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