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Residents accuse hookah lounge of attracting violence

CHICAGO (CBS) — Concerns are growing on Chicago’s Near Northwest Side over violent crimes – and a business some residents say is attracting the violence.

As CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar reported, a residents assembled Tuesday night to address concerns about a number of recent violent crimes in Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, and West Town. The focus specifically was on the Lyon’s Den Hookah Lounge, at 2123 W. Division St. near Leavitt Street.

Austin McAllister – a father of six, personal trainer, and US Army veteran – was shot and killed while working as a bouncer at the Lyon’s Den on New Year’s Eve.

On Tuesday night, a nearly full room of residents was upset that the business – which they describe as a nuisance – has not been shut down using a legal process formally known as summary closure.

“Within the last year, we had 10 direct calls for service specifically for that,” said Chicago Police Near West (12th) District Sgt. Michael Karczewski.

Along with those 10 calls for incidents at the hookah lounge last year, the CPD said there were about 40 indirect calls.

“That bullet could have easily gone through our window,” said Pooja Gandhi.

Gandhi lives on Division Street across the street from the Lyon’s Den. She voiced her fears directly to leaders from the CPD’s Near West (12th) and Shakespeare (14th) districts – along with aldermen Daniel La Spata (1st) and Brian Hopkins (2nd).

“Most of the time, it’s extremely rowdy, meaning there’s fights going on in the street,” Gandhi told CBS 2’s De Mar, “There’s people basically having parties in the street.”

Police Supt. David Brown has the ultimate say in closing a business – and decided against closing the Lyon’s Den.

“I’m the one who submitted a request for a summary closure – and in this particular case I disagree with the superintendent’s judgment, respectfully,” said Ald. Hopkins.

“What I take it as is that they basically need to see more deaths happen for them to be able to shut down the business – which I think is ridiculous,” Gandhi said.

The community meeting was also prompted by a separate shooting New Year’s Eve weekend in a Ukrainian Village Mariano’s store parking lot – the same lot where a man was shot and killed in December.

“I truly am considering moving out,” Gandhi said.

At the Tuesday night meeting, Chicago Police also explained that in order to shut a business down, the business itself has to do something wrong. They said on the night of the shooting over New Year’s weekend, the business did not do anything wrong and has fully cooperated.

The Lyon’s Den Hookah Lounge has been closed since the night of the shooting. But according to their Facebook page and other social media, they plan to reopen on Thursday.

Charlie De Mar


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