Tensions are running high lately around the 800 block of Madison Street, where Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs has been holding “happy hour” nights with DJs that neighbors say have brought noise, garbage and public drinking.
The restaurant has received more than a dozen noise complaints to the Oak Park Police Department since the beginning of 2018, and police are now conducting regular “premise checks” on the business to make sure patrons aren’t disrupting the neighbors.
Katy Groves, a resident who lives near Robinson’s, said in a telephone interview that she is reluctant to call police on the business, but has done so because Robinson’s has not been responsive to her complaints.
Charlie Robinson, owner of the decades old restaurant, said his security staff monitors late noise and litter and suggested there are racial elements to the complaints.
Groves said her biggest concern is over the noise preventing her baby from getting to sleep. Groves said that when patrons begin leaving the establishment around midnight, they are loud and leave garbage and play loud music from their vehicles.
More recently, the business has attracted patrons with loud motorcycles, which rev their engines outside the business and disturb nearby residents.
“I moved to Oak Park because I was pregnant,” she said, noting that she lived for years in the city of Chicago where more noise is expected. “I like quiet places where babies can sleep. I just don’t associate Oak Park with a vibrant night life and a biker scene.”
Joshua Drucker, another neighbor who lives a short distance from Robinson’s, confirmed that the business has brought loud music and garbage to the area. Drucker said another neighbor of his – not Groves – has encouraged him to call the police, but he declined to do so because he is far enough away from Robinson’s that the noise has not been a problem for him and his family.
“I didn’t feel comfortable because it’s not a problem for me,” he said but acknowledged that he has talked to Robinson’s about the broken liquor bottles that have appeared in front of his home since the restaurant started holding the DJ nights.
He said the noise “didn’t bother me, but I could see how it would other neighbors.”
Residents aren’t the only ones complaining about Robinson’s. On May 7, Robinson’s neighbor to the west, Madison Street Medical Sleep Clinic, called police and said they’ve had problems with “excessive noise” coming from the establishment.
The noise has prompted the clinic to “adjust their business hours to not have patients on Tuesday and Thursday nights because the noise from the music at Robinson’s which does not allow their patients to sleep,” according to the police report.
The complaint notes that the clinic “has to clear (the) rear parking lot and front sidewalk of empty liquor bottles in the morning after these events.”
The owners of the clinic have spoken to Robinson’s staff “although conditions have not improved.”
Sleep Clinic staff declined to discuss the issue.
Charlie Robinson tells Wednesday Journal that he and staff have worked to clean up the area after the DJ nights and have security to make sure patrons are quiet while leaving the establishment.
Robinson, who relocated his restaurant from down the street to the new space in 2016, said he believes the complaints and increased police presence at the establishment are due to racism because the business attracts largely black patrons.
“It’s a black thing,” he said.
Robinsons said at least one neighbor has yelled racial epithets at his patrons, on at least one instance telling them to “Go back to Africa.”
He said Oak Park police also have begun parking their vehicles outside of his establishment and issuing parking tickets for vehicles parked in the nearby neighborhood.
He said Robinson’s staff cleans up the neighborhood after the business closes every evening and tells patrons to keep the noise down.
Robinson said he has three security guards on the DJ nights to “keep the peace” and make sure patrons aren’t disrupting the neighbors.
Robinson, who is in his third year of a five-year lease, said he is considering leaving the village because he believes police are profiling his patrons.
“There are opportunities in Forest Park (and elsewhere) …” he said. “I’m just really tired of this harassment from the village.”