City council members across town on Tuesday expressed frustration at “restaurants turning into nightclubs” and problematic buildings being dragged to court, only for judges to grant “prorogation after prorogation.”
Buildings Commissioner Matthew Beaudet was testifying at budget hearings and Council members took the opportunity to offload – even though the new Commissioner was firmly on their side.
“We are attending court hearings. … We say to the judge: ‘This building is about to collapse on a neighbor.’ And [the judge says], ‘OKAY. Nine months of continuation, ”said Beaudet.
“It’s frustrating. It’s a good thing it’s a Zoom call because I might have lost it or else.”
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) started the chorus with a complaint about a West 107th Street business that attracts gangs, guns and drugs, but somehow manages to stay open.
“This has been going on since December 2020. They have a cease and desist order. … We went through everyone. When will we stop them from using their business? Austin asked.
Far North Side Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) said she too was “extremely frustrated” with the problems “of the buildings which had been in court for years” only to get by because their business was “carried on” over and over again .
The chairman of the finance committee, Scott Waguespack (32nd), urged Beaudet to push the limits, if necessary, to crack the whip on “restaurants which turn into nightclubs” and become magnets for crime.
“If they have 20 infractions and I call the owner… who lives…. in the suburbs or in another state and [says] – It’s my tenant’s problem. The owner of the bar who has shootings. No it is not. It’s your problem and I’ll make sure it’s your problem. And if you want an economic impact, I’ll do one on you. This is what I would like to see more of, ”said Waguespack.
“If we have to sort through a property to end some of the issues that arise, we should do it – all within legal limits, however. We have to make sure that we use all the tools in the box to drop the hammer on these companies that start shootings in the middle of the street. “
Beaudet agreed that, in order to deal with a nuisance, “you [sometimes] must be a greater nuisance. And that’s what his department does.
“Every Friday night, every Saturday night, we’re there until 2 in the morning. These are scary situations that you sometimes find yourself in. But, when we show up, we show up in force. That’s us, CPD, BACP. … We closed them a bit. They pleaded, ”said the commissioner.
Beaudet said at least part of the problem is with buildings that “claim to be vacant” but actually function as “party places” while the owner of the property calls for tax relief.
“If we continue to miss their chance to have these party places, maybe they will tire and go elsewhere. Or maybe they’ll just sell the property to someone who actually uses it.
The problem created by giving tax breaks to property owners who make “good faith efforts” to rent or lease their vacant property was highlighted this week by Block Club Chicago.
“We have to attack a lot of these buildings that are in quotes and not ‘vacant’, but we know they are party places. We know they are taverns. We know this is an active business. They just say they’re vacant to go under the radar and, at the same time, the owner who may be in California or New York gets a tax break, ”Beaudet said.
“There were several invoices in Springfield [to change that], but they’re still being crushed by the lobbyists out there.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) made a suggestion while City Hall waits for a legislative solution that may never come.
Why not extend the Chicago Drug and Gang Ordinance to include business?
“It was to fight against the drug trafficking that took place in the apartments. But now we have it going on in storefronts. And the property owner doesn’t care as long as they collect their monthly rent, even if it wreaks havoc on the community. And when one comes out, another moves in, ”Hairston said.
“If we had to have them confiscated, it would be an opportunity to put the property back in the hands of an official. And this is how we would help heal our communities.