Wicker Park bar loses appeal of 6-month shutdown order issued after patron opened fire from across street shortly after leaving
An administrative law judge agreed that the owner of the Point could not have “reasonably anticipated” the actions of the patron — but he still backed the city.
By all accounts, there was no sign of trouble when the man walked up to the bar at the Point in Wicker Park, ordered a drink, finished it and walked out.
Moments later, though, he fired 10 shots into the bar from across the street and wounded someone in the eye, according to the police. It was the second time in four months that someone had opened fire along the busy stretch of Milwaukee Avenue outside the Point.
City Hall blamed the bar, ordering it closed for six months, calling it a public safety threat.
Now, an administrative law judge has upheld that sanction despite agreeing that the bar’s owner could not have “reasonably anticipated” the patron’s actions.
“The only thing I’m guilty of is, I couldn’t read someone’s mind,” says Jun Lin, owner of the bar at 1565 N. Milwaukee Ave., where the six-month shutdown is due to be lifted Aug. 8.
Lin says he thinks the judge’s line of reasoning sets a dangerous precedent for business owners.
“It’s the perpetrator that should be punished,” he says, “not the innocent business that the city — through this investigation — could not prove one thing we did wrong.”
Business groups and legal professionals contacted by the Sun-Times said they were unable to comment on any implications of the Point’s case.
The shooting happened around closing time on Feb. 6. A video from inside the bar shows the patron entering the Point around 4:50 a.m. with three other men. They get checked with a handheld metal detector, and their IDs are scanned.
The man then buys a drink “without incident,” drinks it without “any noteworthy activity” and leaves, according to the law judge’s ruling.
By 5:10 a.m., he is across the street and firing into the bar “without warning and without provocation,” the ruling noted.
Soon after, the Chicago police served the bar with the shutdown order, which also cited a shooting on the same block last October that happened as an unruly crowd wandered along double-parked cars. Four people exchanged gunfire, leaving one dead and wounding four bystanders, authorities said.
Instead of agreeing to a “nuisance-abatement plan” and meeting reopening terms set by the city, Lin chose to fight the shutdown order, arguing that he had done everything he could to maintain a safe operation.
Lin requested a probable cause hearing, and the process played out for months until the ruling July 8 backing City Hall’s order.
Brian Porter, serving as an administrative law judge, did side in part with Lin, ruling that the shooting last October “cannot be attributed to the Point” since the block is “densely occupied with several bars.”
But Porter found that the second shooting was connected to the bar.
“Said perpetrator is observed on video purchasing one drink from the bar with his own credit card, leaving licensee’s establishment and returning almost immediately thereafter to a location across the street from licensee’s, where he proceeded to fire several bullets into the establishment,” the judge wrote.
He concluded that the bar was responsible because one of its patrons had caused the “public safety threat.”
Ald. Daniel LaSpata (1st) says he thinks the bar operator should have agreed to the changes suggested by the city and the police, instead of waiting out its sixth-month shutdown.
“We do have other 5 a.m. bars in Wicker Park, but we haven’t seen similar issues as we’ve seen at the Point,” LaSpata says. “And I am not saying there is direct responsibility, but there is accountability here to see changes to make the community trust incidents like this aren’t going to happen again.”
LaSpata says he hopes the Point will voluntarily make changes — including possibly forgoing its 5 a.m. license — before reopening.
Though the shutdown order expires Aug. 8, Lin says he’s still working to resolve code violations issued by the city Buildings Department.