Just about every adult on the South Side knows the 50 Yard Line Sports Bar & Grill at 69 E. 75th St.
The iconic sports bar has been a gathering spot for private parties, jazz performances and the free-style dancing known as “stepping” for as long as I can remember.
In fact, a former high school classmate has hosted a stepping party at the popular nightclub every second and fourth Friday for more than a decade.
I no longer frequent nightclubs, but every time I drove past “The 50,” as partygoers know it, I was amazed — but pleased — that the city’s violence hadn’t crossed its threshold.
That all changed dramatically Thursday when a man was killed and another man was wounded during a fight inside the club. And a car near 75th and Michigan, which the police said was carrying the shooter, hit a 26-year-old woman fleeing the club.
Tommy Williams, who hosts old-school stepping parties at The 50 twice a month, said a younger crowd is usually in the club on Thursdays.
“They choose gun violence instead of conflict resolution,” Williams said. “When we were younger, we could get into it, and we would fight, but once the fight was over with, it was over. This is a sad situation and gives all of us a black eye.”
The owners of the 50 Yard Line didn’t return my calls seeking comments about the violence.
Williams said that on Thursday nights the crowd tends to be in people in their 30s and early 40s.
“The problem is that hard-core music that’s played,” he said. “I think that causes a lot of young folks to lose their minds.”
Williams told me he had been on the phone most of the day with people who were concerned about the gun violence.
Because the club is being forced to close for the next seven days, the promoter had to cancel Friday’s planned dance set.
Williams said insiders at the club told him the shooter was a security guard at a liquor store.
“He came in right after work, fully dressed in his security-guard uniform, and got into it with a guy,” Williams said. “Security guards in the club were escorting him out when the other guy carried on with the fight.”
The shooter “reached down and came up at an angle shooting,” he said. “He didn’t shoot the guy he was fighting with, he shot the 50 Yard Line security guard and somebody else.”
The Chicago Police Department did not respond to questions about the incident and had not identified the suspected shooter or the victims of this shooting by late Friday.
But just one nightclub shooting is one incident too many in a community where residents are desperately trying to preserve middle-class values and a sense of safety.
“I am hoping the [50 Yard Line] will be able to survive this and don’t have to close down,” Williams said. “It is one of the last few places that we can go and feel comfortable. People used to say our party was like the house parties we used to have back in the day.”
Obviously, worst things could happen than a nightclub closing.
But in too many South Side neighborhoods, violence is forcing adults to give up many of the activities their counterparts in other parts of the city are free to enjoy.