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Chaos at overcrowded W. Side club

The Brick's Sports Bar and Grill, 4422 W Madison St. Friday, February 3, 2012 . | John H. White~Sun-Times.

When police arrived at a dangerously overcrowded club in the Garfield Park neighborhood early Friday, they found utter pandemonium that included a fight, two car crashes and a man shooting wildly into the air.

Police were called about 1 a.m. to Brick’s Sports Bar and Grill, 4422 W. Madison St., after a patron called to complain of dangerous overcrowding, Harrison District Lt. Steven Sesso said. When officers arrived they were not allowed inside and found the doors were locked, trapping all the patrons inside.

Someone eventually got the doors open and patrons streamed out, Sesso said. Police counted 273 people leaving the 99-person-capacity club, but had to stop their count because a man was firing shots in a parking lot across the street.

The man then got into his 1998 Lexus and drove off, Sesso said. He crashed in the first block of South Kostner Avenue and took off on foot, escaping arrest, though police recovered a gun in the car.

No one was shot.

At the same time, two women were fighting and one got in her car and tried to leave, Sesso said. Several patrons tried to stop her, resulting in her crashing into several parked cars and hitting one patron, who was taken to Stroger Hospital in good condition.

Alexis Dumas, 29, of the 800 block of North LaTrobe Avenue, was arrested and charged with aggravated DUI, a felony, misdemeanor DUI, and driving on a suspended license, police said.

“This location is a problem in our district,” Sesso said, adding that police had been called there on several other occasions because of overcrowding.

He said the bar has a liquor license that requires serving alcohol be secondary to another activity, in this case serving food. When police searched the bar, they found no evidence of any food being served except a single box of chicken wings in the refrigerator.

The owner, Bettie Jean Johnson of Chicago, was ticketed for reckless conduct for locking the doors and for violating the liquor license, Sesso said. He said she had been cited before for the same license violations.

Johnson did not return messages left at her home for comment.

Sesso said he is planning to ask the state Fire Marshal to inspect the club, though by law it can continue to operate unless the city Liquor Control Commission revokes its license.

State liquor officials say that Brick’s current license is valid. But Jennifer Lipford, a spokeswoman for the city’s Liquor Control Commission said her department will ask at a hearing for the license to be revoked.

Meanwhile, the commission was investigating whether Johnson was operating with the correct license.

Buildings department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the property was cited on Jan. 26 after inspectors found improper clasps and sidebolts on outer doors. They couldn’t get inside, though, he said, so he didn’t knowwhether conditions inside were unsafe. His department may close buildings immediately if code violations pose safety hazards, he said.

Chicago Fire Department Richard Rosado said the case was being handled by a task force with the Chicago Police Department. Fire officials will conduct surprise inspections on the bar, he said, to count patrons.

Rosado could not immediately say Friday whether Brick’s had prior trouble with overcrowding.