City should have shut down Loop club before weekend killing, Ald. Sigcho-Lopez says
CHICAGO - A killing outside a downtown nightclub last weekend might have been averted if the city had shut it down after two earlier fatal shootings outside the club, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) says.
The Chicago Police Department and the city’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department should have ordered Persona Lounge, 408 S. Wells St., to be closed after a fatal mass shooting outside the club July 1, Sigcho-Lopez says.
There also was another fatal shooting in May in that block.
"If the police department and BACP and other departments enforced this like they do in other parts of the city, perhaps we could have prevented the [latest] tragedy," the Chicago City Council member says.
Instead, the owners were allowed to close voluntarily in early July after they said they would come up with a new "concept."
Then, early Sunday, a security guard working at a private event at Persona shot another security guard to death after they got into an argument outside the club, according to police.
Sigcho-Lopez, whose ward includes the bar, says he and the police commander for the area were surprised to learn the club was open.
"The fact that they opened up against the commitment they made to the commander, who ultimately has the oversight power, it is a concern," he says.
Sigcho-Lopez says he questions whether the police and city inspectors are using their power equitably in deciding which businesses linked to violence will be shut down.
He cites a Sun-Times investigation that found that 60 businesses across the city have been closed by police because of violence since 2015, but only one of them, a nightclub called Sound Bar, was downtown. Most of those shut down have been on the South Side or the West Side.
"We have a part of the city that is seeing very little oversight and other parts of the city that have experienced the most significant challenges during the pandemic — and that’s where we’re seeing the most enforcement," Sigcho-Lopez says. "Why did [Persona] receive this level of grace? Because, at the end of the day, I would imagine that, after the second [fatal shooting], there would be every attempt to make sure that there’s not a third time."
He says business owners and people who live near Persona have complained to his office about problems related to the club.
When the police or City Hall consider whether to order a business closed because of violence, it appears to him that those in neighborhoods like Pilsen, which is also in his ward, have been treated more harshly than others that are downtown and owned by people with political connections, Sigcho-Lopez says.
He points to a business in his ward, Memo’s Hot Dogs, at 1447 W. 18th St. in Pilsen, that recently was shut down by the city over concerns that a mural on the business was an improper advertisement for the 65-year-old restaurant, though Memo’s name wasn’t on the mural.
"How is it that we determine these priorities?" Sigcho-Lopez says. "I think the lack of consistency is a problem."
After an interview Monday in which Sigcho-Lopez said the city should close Persona and suspend or revoke its license, the Chicago Police Department issued a summary closure order Tuesday to shut it down for up to six months.
During that time, owners of the club can negotiate a nuisance-abatement plan with City Hall, a step that typically requires expensive security upgrades.
Asked what the criteria are for the police to order a summary closure, a police spokesperson cites the language of the 2015 city ordinance that gives the police that authority, which says a club or other business can be closed for a violent offense such as a killing, discharge of a weapon, aggravated assault or criminal sexual assault that the police determine was connected to the operation of the establishment.
In addition to the police now having ordered Persona closed, the city’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department has referred a "license disciplinary case" for the club to the city’s Law Department for a hearing, according to the agency’s Elisa Sledzinska.
Reginald Marsh, one of Persona’s owners, says they’re now trying to sell the club.
According to Marsh, his agreement with the city was to close voluntarily only for the Independence Day weekend, but "we decided that we were going to close for a longer period of time. We were going to revamp the venue, install another concept."
Marsh says a private event with an R&B band and about 150 people in attendance was held at the bar Saturday night and early Sunday and that "security was provided by the people having the event."
The police said that, at about 1:35 a.m. Sunday, Devontrell Turnipseed, 23, a security guard working at the event at Persona, fatally shot Artemis Harris, another security guard, during an argument outside the club. Turnipseed has been charged with murder and is being held without bail.
According to prosecutors, Harris, 38, confronted Turnipseed at the entrance to the club, saying he thought Turnipseed should do a more thorough job of patting patrons down. When Turnipseed pulled a gun from a holster, Harris punched him in his face, and Turnipseed fired three shots, hitting Harris twice in his side, prosecutors said.
On July 1, according to the police, five men were shot after leaving Persona. One man got into an argument with another, who shot at the five men, killing two and wounding three, the police said. No one was charged.
Marsh says he doesn’t know whether Persona’s patrons were involved in that shooting.
Regarding the fatal shooting outside the bar Sunday, he says that, though it involved two security guards working there, "The incident had actually nothing to do with the patrons, had nothing to do with the event. It’s just unfortunate that whenever it happens at a bar, it draws this attention like it’s something out of the ordinary, when tragically, it’s happening everywhere."
City and state records show Marsh and his wife own The Park Supper Club, 65 E. Garfield Blvd., and M Lounge, 1520 S. Wabash Ave.