There is a contretemps on Madison Street that needs immediate conversation and reconciliation. It involves Robinson’s Bar & Grill, the updated version of the iconic Robinson’s #1 Ribs, which has been at home on this street since the 1980s.

Charlie Robinson moved his restaurant a block over last year after village government actively worked to purchase his previous location to clear space for a townhouse project. The new location, a former Leona’s, is bigger with amenities that have shifted it toward more full-service bar and event space.

Two nights a week Robinson’s hosts a dance party that draws a large, and largely black, audience for step dancing. Calls to Oak Park police have increased, a combination of noise complaints, crowd control, and let’s be plain, over-sensitivity to large gatherings of African Americans out on the town.

We’ve known Charlie Robinson for nearly 40 years. Hard to get a rise out of this gracious man. When he calls this out as having a racial element and talks about moving his business out of town, it is time to stop talking and listen. 

Skip the alarm talk of who is a racist and let’s have the conversation about racial bias that impacts all of our perceptions and sometimes our actions. This is an opportunity.

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