A night out in River North, including a stop at the controversial nightspot Bottled Blonde, preceded the fiery, high-speed crash in which a 21-year-old passenger died and the driver ran away — but later took his own life.
The driver, 34-year-old Anthony Milder, was found in his Bucktown apartment and pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m. Monday, according to police and the Cook County medical examiner’s office. An autopsy Tuesday ruled his death a suicide.
A police source told the Chicago Sun-Times that the Chicago Fire Department was dispatched to Milder’s home to perform a well-being check Monday evening. As fire crews were arriving, so too were Chicago Police, who were there to question him about the crash, which happened early Monday and closed the Ontario Street feeder ramp for eight hours.
The source said Milder had hanged himself with a belt and was found against a door.
According to his social-media accounts, Milder was an active figure in the Chicago nightlife scene and worked at Underground, another bar in River North.
A source told the Chicago Sun-Times that Milder, who also went by Anthony van Morré, and the passenger in his car, 21-year-old Alejandra Damian of Joliet, were at Bottled Blonde on Wells Street before the crash. Milder posted to Facebook at 6:32 p.m. Sunday that he was at Bottled Blonde; it’s unclear exactly how long the two were there.
Tuesday afternoon, a Bottled Blonde manager, who declined to give her name, confirmed Milder and Damian were at the establishment on Sunday evening. But she said they were at several other River North bars that night based on conversations she’d had with other members of the River North nightlife community.
Bottled Blonde has become a symbol of sorts for the hip, but sometimes violent, bar scene in River North.
With a flood of complaints for noise, litter and drunken patrons since it opened in 2015, city investigators reprimanded the pizzeria for operating primarily as a bar instead of a restaurant, against the terms of its liquor license, according to records from the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
The restaurant also has drawn widespread social-media attention for its dress code — which prohibits 30 different styles, including “excessively baggy” clothing, plain white T-shirts and Jordan gym shoes. The dress code has been widely criticized online as a thinly veiled way of keeping out people of color.
Bottled Blonde’s owners have declined to comment on both issues.
About 1:30 a.m. on Monday, the 2009 Nissan coupe that Milder had been driving was speeding west in the 400 block of West Ontario when it struck a utility pole at Orleans, causing the car to spin out and burst into flames. Damian was pulled from the wreck and pronounced dead at the scene at 1:40 a.m.
Damian, known to friends as “Aly,” was a student at DePaul University, and worked as a waitress at the Vertigo Sky Lounge and Cerise Rooftop, according to her Facebook page.
A GoFundMe page set up to help with funeral and memorial expenses had raised nearly $10,000 towards a $15,000 goal in just 15 hours as of Tuesday morning.
Contributing: Fran Spielman