BURNSIDE — An early morning fire broke out on the roof of Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge in Burnside on Monday, charring a business the local alderman pushed to close following a deluge of complaints from neighbours.
Firefighters responded to reports of flames around 5:40 a.m. Monday at Nipsey’s, 9156 S. Stony Island Ave., department spokesman Larry Merritt said.
The fire caused the roof to collapse and officials were unable to enter the building due to the damage, Merritt said. It took firefighters about an hour to extinguish the flames, Merritt said.
The cause of the fire is not yet known, Merritt said. The building is still standing, but crews at the scene could be seen using heavy equipment to clean blackened parts of the interior on Monday afternoon.
Nipsey’s operators could not immediately be reached on Monday, but Teddy Gilmore, one of the entrepreneurs behind the restaurant, said in an Instagram post the team was devastated by the fire.
“We are heartbroken, distraught and beyond saddened to learn that a fire occurred at Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge early Monday morning,” the statement read. “We are grateful that our staff and our community are safe. We appreciate those of you who have reached out to support us. Right now we’re just trying to figure out what happened and what the next steps are. Our hearts go out to everyone on our team and to everyone affected by this devastating news. »
Alvin Rider, Ald’s chief of staff. Michelle Harris (8th), whose department includes Nipsey’s, said the alderman was “shocked” when she heard about the fire. Chicago Police Department officials informed Harris and his team of the situation, Rider said.
“It’s unfortunate that a beautiful historic building is damaged,” Rider said.
Nipsey’s, which opened in November 2020, has come under heavy criticism from Harris and its neighbors in recent months.
Residents have called for Nipsey to be permanently closed, citing loud music and disruptive patrons urinating and trashing their homes, starting fights and obstructing parking in the area. Harris, who said she wanted to support the creation of a black-owned business in the area, also pushed to close the restaurant due to ongoing issues.
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“I believe in shutting down businesses if you can’t come in and be a decent landlord and respect the community that needs to live here and be here 24 hours a day,” Harris said at a community meeting in January. “When you’re not there, these problems don’t exist.”
Gilmore, the person most neighbors associate with the restaurant, had previously closed two businesses over issues similar to those facing Nipsey. Gilmore’s DrinkHaus, a restaurant and bar in Greektown, closed in 2019 after failing to follow its operating plan. His new tavern in River North closed in 2015 after receiving a “Drug and Gang Ordinance Nuisance” notice from City Hall.
Harris said she was aware of Gilmore’s previous reputation with neighborhood businesses, but she decided to “give a brother another shot.” But as neighbors’ concerns about Nipsey poured in, Harris said Nipsey needed to be ‘gone and shut down’. Gilmore said he felt Nipsey was unfairly targeted and that Harris refused his efforts to try to settle their differences out of court.
The restaurant operators were embroiled in multiple disciplinary hearings with the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, facing multiple citations for violating its business licenses. The city slapped Nipsey with four citations in December and nine more in February.
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Rider said city officials pushed back a Feb. 25 hearing while they and Nipsey’s attorney worked on a deal. Another hearing was scheduled for March 11, Rider said, but it’s unclear whether that hearing will continue in the wake of the fire. A BACP spokesperson could not immediately provide further information.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
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