Future of 50 Yard Line lounge in Limbo

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By Patrice Nkrumah, Chicago Crusader

For decades, the 50 Yard Line Lounge in the Park Manor community has been a place where Blacks can hang out and watch sports, meet up with friends, dance and have politically-incorrect conversations. But recent violent incidents at the lounge, 69 E. 75th, have raised concerns from its neighbors and the city.

Last week, the lounge was temporarily closed after an employee was shot and killed inside while breaking up a fight.

On April 5, the Park Manor Neighbors Community Council held a community meeting in which the owners of the lounge and 6th District Cmdr. Rodney Blissett attended. Residents say the establishment has changed for the worse, and they are concerned about their home values and safety.

“The crowd you are catering to has changed,” said one resident to the applause from others in the crowd. “I’m seeing a younger crowd than what you used to have.”

Andrew Love, 29, was working security when a fight began inside the lounge. He was shot while trying to break it up. The lounge has a “No guns allowed” sign posted as required by law. In addition, it does not allow persons under the age of 25 or for patrons to wear gym shoes or white T-shirts to enter. Even with those measures in place and security guards hired, residents say there continues to be problems.

“I’ve lived here over 40 years and unfortunately, the area is changing just like others around the city,” said Silas Patterson. “I don’t think shuttering a business is the answer though. I think working with the business and more police presence can make things better. It seems to me like the business is doing all it can. They had security. They had a ‘No guns allowed’ sign, and they have a dress code to try and keep the riff-raff out, but they still had trouble. Some people are just going to cause problems no matter what.”

The owners of the lounge said they closed the business voluntarily. The city could have used a new ordinance to temporarily suspend their liquor and business licenses. Seeking comment for this story, the Chicago Crusader left two messages for 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer, whose ward includes the 50 Yard Line. Our messages were never returned.

In the past few months, the city has closed 11 establishments using the new ordinance that allows them to close a business when a violent incident takes place. Most recently was the Brudder’s Bar & Grill in Irving Park, where another bouncer was killed when a bullet was fired from outside and went through the establishment’s window striking Angel Ortiz, 51, in the head, shortly after he removed some patrons from the business for fighting.

During the meeting, several residents say it is not just the violence, but quality-of-life issues. They say parking at night has become a nightmare on Michigan, Wabash and Indiana Avenues. They also shared they are seeing people smoking marijuana in cars and doing sexual acts in cars outside their homes with little police presence.

“I shouldn’t have to come out my house and see a freak show at night when I’m trying to find a parking spot for my wife who works a late shift,” said Harold Madison, who said he just moved into the area a few months ago. “I can’t speak on what this place used to be like, but I can clearly see what it is now.”

Blissett seemed visibly upset by all of the recent actions inside and outside the establishment. He said at this time, the 50 Yard Line will remain closed until a plan of action is crafted to address the issues. He also encouraged residents who had questions or concerns to contact the 6th District CAPS unit and to work with the police to solve issues.

“We’re all in this together, so we must work as one,” Blissett said. “We can’t provide all of the answers, but by working with businesses, residents and city services, we can accomplish the goal.”

The Park Manor Neighbors Community Council said it would canvas the block clubs in the vicinity of the lounge to get the community’s thoughts about how to move forward.

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