clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Chief: Bar tied to suburban pol ‘dangerous for police officers’

The police in Burnham have been called to Will's Sports Bar more than 800 times in six years. | Casey Toner / BGA

Since it opened in June 2010, a 4 a.m. bar in Burnham owned by the wife of a former politician in neighboring Calumet City has drawn more than 800 police calls, prompting the police chief in the south suburb to call for it to be shut down.

Will’s Sports Bar is “bad for the community and dangerous for police officers,” according to the police chief, Peter Belos, who says he’d close it if he could.

“The crowd that it attracts, it gives us the problems,” says Belos, whose officers have been called to the bar owned by Kimberly Wilson more than 1,400 times in the past six years, including “building checks,” village records show.

Kimberly Wilson didn’t return calls. Her husband Brian Wilson — a former Calumet City alderman who helps manage the bar — calls Will’s the “most well-run bar in Burnham or Calumet City.”

But records show the Burnham police have been called to the club, which has a capacity of 252 people, for incidents that have included more than two dozen assaults, aggravated assaults and batteries, five calls about shots having been fired and numerous complaints about public indecency, noise and other disturbances. In March, a shooting outside the club led to a first-degree murder charge.

Burnham police Chief Peter Belos. Village of Burnham
Burnham police Chief Peter Belos. Village of Burnham

According to a January 2012 police report, Belos was surrounded by people shouting and cursing at him in Will’s parking lot when he tried to arrest a man carrying a glass container. The police said the man had hit him in the shoulder and that, when another officer tried to use a Taser on the man, others kicked and punched him and another officer.

James Durkin, a member of the village police commission, calls Will’s “a public nuisance” and “a total fiasco.”

“There seems to be continual fights out there and everything else,” Durkin says.

As the suburb’s liquor commissioner, Mayor Robert Polk twice has ordered the bar shut down for brief periods — once in 2014 for having electrical work done without permits and later that year for allowing minors into the club. In 2012, a bar employee was charged with allowing a minor in the bar.

Court records show Kimberly Wilson agreed in January 2014 to shut down Will’s from Jan. 16 to Jan. 21 that year after the club allowed minors inside. The club also had to pay fines of $900 to reopen.

Former Calumet City Ald. Brian Wilson. Twitter
Former Calumet City Ald. Brian Wilson. Twitter

Brian Wilson, who was a Calumet City alderman from 2005 to 2013, and his wife later sued Polk and the village of Burnham after Polk ordered the club shut down because employees “jerry-rigged portable electric generators” after Commonwealth Edison disconnected the electricity, records show. The Wilsons agreed to drop the suit a week after filing it.

The former alderman, who gave Polk’s political campaign $100 in 2008, says the bar is a target because he’s “probably going to run for mayor again” in Calumet City. In 2013, he tried to run for mayor but was kicked off the ballot.

This year, Will’s has been cited four times, with fines totaling $450, for overflowing garbage, failure to clean its parking lot and “offending the peace of the citizens.”

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission has fined the club $3,225 in the past five years for eight violations, among them advertising free drinks, giving away free drinks, refusing inspection of its liquor storage and buying liquor retail rather than from a state-licensed distributor.

On March 2, Vincent Means, 32, was shot to death inside his car following an altercation on the street outside Will’s. Timothy Watkins, 22, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Brian Wilson calls the death “an unfortunate incident” and says, “Whatever happened, it was out in the street.”

Casey Toner is an investigator for the Better Government Association.