A proposed banquet hall that neighbors argue is intended to be 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 more than 500 signatures in a petition to prevent the opening of the proposed BCD Banquet Hall, 6206 W. North Ave., according to NCC member Judith Alexander.
The group, which formed in fall of 2012 to fight the opening of a pawn shop on North Avenue, argues in the petition that the club will be used for DJ dance party events and encourage public drinking, noise, litter and fighting near residential areas. Perry Camberis Abbasi, an NCC member, said in an interview that in January 2013, the mother-son team of Angelina Collins and Julian Reed began efforts to open a nightclub at that location, which they were originally calling Behind Closed Doors.
Neighbors rallied against the proposal, convincing Collins to withdraw an application for a public place of amusement license with the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals earlier this year. Collins returned in October with a new proposal, renaming the proposed club 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 public place of amusement 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.
NCC members say they're also suspicious about Reed's posts on social networking sites such as Twitter. A post on Aug. 25 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."
An investigation by NCC members of Reed also revealed that he has promoted underground dance party events, most recently in December 2012. 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.
In a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Bernadette Hicks, assistant commissioner for the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, NCC 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," NCC said in the letter. "BCD Banquet Hall can turn a profit by selling expensive cans of Red Bull or pricey set-ups of glasses with ice and mixers."
The group also argues that the venue would not have enough parking spaces, even if BCD rents space at a nearby parking lot.
Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) said in a telephone interview that if Collins and Reed truly intend to open a banquet hall, then "I think it would be a good thing for the community."
But she added that the mother-son team has not been clear on their intentions for the club. Graham noted that residents' concerns were raised earlier this year when Collins and Reed began renovating the venue before they had the necessary licenses to open shop.
"She went ahead and rented the place and rehabbed the place," Graham said. "That was before she got support from the community."
NCC members say their concerns about a potential nightclub are not unfounded. Secrets nightclub operated not far from the proposed BCD Banquet Hall from 1995 to 1998, according to NCC, and resulted in patrons drinking and taking drugs in parked cars and in nearby alleys.
"There was noise, litter and fighting," according to a letter sent to Mayor Emanuel. "The public nuisance was so extreme that the community finally voted the precinct dry and Secrets closed."
NCC member Donald Glover, who lives near the former Secrets location said in a letter to the city that when Secrets was in business, "People were urinating in gangways and littering our streets, not just with cigarette butts and beverage cans, but also with used condoms and syringes.
"This created an environment that was anything but family-friendly and one that was very frightening for our elderly," he said.
NCC members are still waiting to hear whether BCD will be awarded a business license.
"Once something's opened it's just so hard on the Chicago side to get it closed," Alexander said, adding that if BCD opens it could cause "years of collateral damage to the neighborhood."