News reports have documented fights at Chuck E. Cheese's around the country. [YouTube/Inside Edition]
CHATHAM — Some residents are not doing a "happy dance" over the possibility that Chuck E. Cheese’s — which bills itself as a place “where a kid can be a kid” — could be coming to Chatham.
The restaurant, 21st Ward Ald. Howard Brookins said, is eyeing a location in a strip mall along the Dan Ryan Expy., off 87th Street.
Although a lease has not been signed, Brookins said the chain has discussed moving into the location with mall management.
The restaurant features arcade and video games and is a popular place for children's birthday parties, where a worker dressed as a giant mouse sings and does "happy dances." But increasingly the restaurants have been the site of violent incidents and fights across the country.
Community members, some a part of the Concerned Citizens of Chatham group, have begun circulating an online petition to ban the family entertainment center from moving into the plaza, known as the 87th Street Center. As of Thursday they had 119 signatures.
Organizers point to violence at the restaurant's location in Oak Lawn, which has seen hundreds of police incidents in recent years, including a man who was shot after leaving, the Tribune reported. That location is now looking to move after it agreed to close by December. Reports nationwide also show incidents of fights breaking out in restaurants in Wisconsin, Miami, Ohio and Connecticut, among other locations.
“Chuck E. Cheese's in Oak Lawn has had documented history of violence going on,” said Worlee Glover, who runs the Concerned Citizens of Chatham. “There have been situations out there where the police have been called to break up fights. There has been a shooting, fistfights and brawls to the point that Oak Lawn was ready to shut them down.”
Glover said that he and others in the community fear a Chuck E. Cheese’s in their community will attract the wrong crowd.
“It’ll draw the troublemakers,” he said.
The 87th Street Center [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]
Kimco Realty Corp. owns the plaza, which includes stores such as Burlington Coat Factory, Jewel Osco and Rainbow clothing store. Kimco did not respond to a request for comment.
Glover said he was told the business could move into Rainbow's location, but Lilia Chacon, spokeswoman for the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, said the restaurant hasn't applied for a new business license application, and Rainbow’s license doesn't expire until April.
Neither Chuck E. Cheese's nor Rainbow immediately responded to messages seeking comment.
Brookins said he can't stop the realty company from granting Chuck E. Cheese's a lease, and he isn't necessarily opposed to the entertainment center, especially since the neighborhood is in need of new businesses, especially family-oriented restaurants.
“We need everything, so for me to be picky and choosy — I joke with people and say that as long as it's not a strip club, a pawn shop, beauty supply store or payday loan — I'm almost OK with it,” he said.
But the safety concern is a real one that Brookins acknowledged. hH said he would be open to meeting with Chicago police and the plaza owner.
“Should they decide to come, there's not much I can do to stop them because they probably won't require a special-use permit or anything like that that would need City Hall approval,” he said.