Give Wild Hare a chance, LP

OPINION

(Tribune File Photo )
February 08, 2012|By Natalie Cammarata, RedEye special contributor

I wouldn't call Lincoln Park diverse.

Chances are if you live in Lincoln Park you are a yuppie, a well-to-do married couple, a college student, a baby or a fancy dog.

I live in Lincoln Park, and I'm not a baby. On the contrary, my yuppie status has allowed me to get into community issues, and I've taken the following stances: pro-nightlife, pro-shopping and pro-puppies.

OK, so maybe I haven't gotten into the issues as much as the next gal with Tory Burch flats, but one issue has recently come to my attention, thanks to the middle-aged friends I found hanging around outside my apartment trying to give me fliers. Their campaign to stop the legendary reggae bar the Wild Hare from opening at the Halsted and Wrightwood intersection struck a chord with me, but probably not the one they had hoped.

The Wild Hare was formerly located in Wrigleyville and closed in May 2011 after being in business for 25 years. My neighbors' use of key words to describe the Wild Hare such as "gangsta bar," "very loud music dance hall" and "disturbing," only made me keener on the idea. All yuppies really want is a little danger to escape from the 9-to-5, am I right?

Traditionally considered a low-crime area, a string of incidents in Lincoln Park during the past few years have kept neighbors and community activists on alert. Robberies in the middle of the night, reports of sexual assault, and a stabbing near Wrightwood Tap (although not reported as related to the bar), have given us reason to travel in groups late at night.

The Wrightwood Neighbors Association, a community organization that takes on issues in the area surrounding Wrightwood Ave., has a crime prevention committee that targets "troublesome taverns." A group of local residents is targeting the Wild Hare as a public nuisance and bringing it to the attention of WNA and 43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith.

Although I understand some of their concerns, I'd like to think the Wild Hare would be a positive addition to the bar scene on the 2600 block of Halsted St. The empty space it would occupy was formerly Victory Liquors, a Notre Dame bar that has been closed for more than a year. Just down the street you'll find the legendary blues bar Kingston Mines as well as B.L.U.E.S., which makes me think this reggae-infused live music venue kind of fits right in.

The Wild Hare might bring more noise to the neighborhood but it will also bring a little culture and diversity. It seems that the group of residents trying to nip this project in the bud is most concerned about the "out of neighborhood youth" it will bring to the area. We wouldn't want to intermingle with outsiders, now would we?

Luckily for my neighbors, in January the city of Chicago revamped the deleterious impact and public nuisance ordinance, making it easier for residents to file a complaint about establishments. The previous law required a resident to have signatures from 50 percent of the residents within 500 feet of the reported nuisance. Now it only takes a group of five or more to file a complaint and start a hearing to determine the future of the establishment.

Ald. Michele Smith approved the new measures as a member of the Committee on License and Consumer Protection. Meanwhile, the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce has expressed that the new regulations might have a negative impact on businesses.

We should be happy that barren storefronts are becoming less and less the norm. The Wild Hare might be a pleasant surprise for the neighborhood--maybe instead of hearing someone scream-singing "Don't Stop Believin'" at 4 a.m. on the street, we can hear the white-boy rendition of "No Woman, No Cry." That would be a blessing for us all.

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