A proposed banquet hall in Galewood that opponents argue is actually an underground nightclub might have a tough time opening its doors, due to opposition from a newly-formed community organization.
Members of the Northwest Side Community Coalition, which represents residents in Oak Park, Austin and Galewood, have collected hundreds of signatures to block the establishment. In all, more than 500 signatures in a petition have been collected against BCD Banquet Hall, 6206 W. North Ave., according to coalition member Judith Alexander.
The Northwest group originally formed in early 2013 to fight the opening of a pawn shop on North Avenue. Now, the group has set its sights on the banquet hall, which also goes by the name Behind Closed Doors. Neighbors argue that the “club” will be used for DJ-style dance parties, encouraging public drinking, noise and fighting near residential areas.
Neighbor and group member Perry Camberis Abbasi said the club’s owners — the mother-son team of Angelina Collins and Julian Reed — began efforts to open a nightclub at that location in January 2013.
Neighbors rallied against the proposal, convincing Collins to withdraw an application for a public place of amusement (PPA) license with the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals in early 2013. Collins returned in October last year with a new proposal, renaming the business BCD Banquet Hall.
Abassi said that by positioning the venue as a banquet hall rather than a nightclub, Collins and Reed are aiming to bypass the need for a proper license.
“You don’t need a PPA if you are operating as, basically, a banquet hall, if you have a food license, if you don’t advertise your party to the public and you don’t have a cover charge,” Abassi said. “So it’s another thing that’s raised our suspicions about it.”
Neither Collins nor Reed could be reached for comment.
The Northwest group members say they’re also suspicious about Reed’s posts on social networking sites such as Twitter.
A post on Aug. 25, 2013 on Reed’s Twitter feed @iAmPrinc3, for example, reads: Can’t wait till BCD open Ima have the baddest females in the city at my spot & they gon be free to get in my treat ladies.
Reed also has a history of promoting underground dance party events, most recently in December 2012, according to the Northwest group’s own investigation. Video recordings of the event include pole dancing, booty shaking and so-called twerking competitions, which entail simulated sex acts while fully clothed, according to Abassi.
Neighbors have made their concerns known to the city.
In a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the group argues the proposed club would allow patrons to bring their own alcoholic drinks.
“Partygoers can legally bring their own alcohol even though the precinct is dry; BCD Banquet Hall can turn a profit by selling expensive cans of Red Bull or pricey set-ups of glasses with ice and mixers,” according to the letter.
The group also argues that a nearby parking lot with 44 spaces is not enough room for the venue, which has occupancy of 433 patrons.
In a recent interview with Austin Weekly News, Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) noted that if Collins and Reed truly intend to open a banquet hall, such a place would be a good for the community.
But the mother-son team, Graham added, has not been clear on their intentions for the club. Graham noted that residents’ concerns about the duo heightened early last year when they began renovating the venue before receiving necessary licenses to officially open.
“She went ahead and rented the place and rehabbed the place. That was before she got support from the community,” Graham said.
The Northwest group insists their concerns about a potential nightclub are not unfounded. Secrets nightclub operated not far from the proposed banquet hall site from 1995 to 1998, according to group members. That establishment, they claim, resulted in patrons drinking and taking drugs in parked cars and in nearby alleys, as well as noise, litter and fighting. As a result, the community voted the precinct dry and Secrets soon closed.
The Northwest group is awaiting word on whether BCD will be awarded a business license.