After decades on Division Street, Outlaws biker clubhouse sold
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If the walls of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club’s North Side headquarters could speak, they wouldn’t dare.
The weathered, three-story, red-brick storefront at 3745 W. Division St. has been the scene of too many over-the-top parties to count, untold plotting against the rival Hells Angels and sometimes-intense law enforcement scrutiny ever since the North Side chapter was formed in the mid-1990s.
But the nondescript structure — described as a sort of Mecca to the biker underworld — recently was sold for $90,000, $9,900 less than the asking price, as the Outlaws departed Humboldt Park after more than two decades there, according to records and interviews.
The North Side crew, known as a menacing bunch, now appears to be bunking with a satellite biker group at a clubhouse in an industrial area on the Far West Side.
Jason Halvorsen, the North Side president, says: “We decided to move. It’s our own choosing.”
Reminding a reporter that the Outlaws were formed in the Chicago area in 1935, Halvorsen says, “Rest assured, we’re not going anywhere.”
He won’t say whether potentially costly building-code problems at the clubhouse played into the decision to put it on the market.
Records show city inspectors went to court over code violations at the 97-year-old Division Street building including a porch that was described as “defective” and having “missing” parts, a “broken, missing or defective window panel” and a lack of railings on the roof, posing a “fall hazard.” That court case is still pending.
The real estate listing for the clubhouse noted the code violations but touted the building’s “potential” and said it was “priced to sell, only cash offers.”
Before the sale was finalized in late January, the building was held in the name of a trust whose ownership wasn’t clear, according to property records that didn’t reveal the new owner.
The deed previously was in the name of the Fraternal Order of Wheelmen, a biker group that used the Division Street building as its clubhouse dating to the early 1980s. Its members were “prospected” and assumed by the Outlaws in the mid-1990s, as the club beefed up to offset a Hells Angels move into Chicago, the Outlaws’ traditional domain.
The Outlaws Motorcycle Club was formed in 1935 in McCook, and its “mother chapter” is now on the South Side.
The Outlaws and the Hells Angels engaged in a bloody campaign of bombings and shootings that ended with a truce in which the Hells Angels, based in California, agreed to stay out of the city proper, settling in Harvey.
Over the years, the Outlaws and Hells Angels have faced federal prosecutions that have seen members around the country sent to prison for drug dealing, murders and more. During a 1997 racketeering case against a number of Outlaws members from the Midwest, federal authorities signaled their intent to seize the Division Street property but never did.
Amid an internal dispute, the Outlaws’ longtime North Side boss Peter “Big Pete” James left in 2015. James has predicted renewed conflict with the Hells Angels, which has seen its profile grow locally.
One constant has been the Division Street building, known as the site of raucous, marathon parties fueled by gallons of Crown Royal, Jack Daniels and white Russians.
“We’re not talking about going there at 7 and it breaking up at midnight,” says a source who has attended gatherings there. “I’m talking about getting there at 7 [on a Friday] and leaving Sunday.”
While the building usually appeared darkened and plain from the outside, during special events the Outlaws’ logo — a skull set against crossed pistons, known as “Charlie” — would be illuminated on a sign visible from the street, which often was lined with Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
Beyond the fortified doors, “It was like a palace,” the source says.
The interior included brass railings, a massive bar and a sprawling mural of Chicago’s skyline. There were also wood floors with the image of a diamond stained into the boards that recently was visible through an open door.
The clubhouse was in the news in 2008 when it was raided by federal agents after Outlaws member Mark Polchan was arrested on charges that included orchestrating a 2003 bombing of a Berwyn video poker business that a reputed mob figure wanted destroyed to protect his own gambling interests.
Among the items seized during the raid, which involved an armored vehicle, were a video of an Outlaws member’s funeral, Christmas cards and an IOU book showing bar tabs.
After the authorities left, the Outlaws had the building swept for listening devices.