Hyde Park Cigars will adopt a plan from the city to curb excessive noise, littering and gatherings at the business that have violated pandemic guidelines.
The measures were outlined at a meeting hosted by the City of Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection on Thursday, Jan. 7, at which Ald. Sophia King (4th), Chicago police and local residents described several long-standing issues at the business, located at 5220 S. Harper Ave., as well as violations of the city’s pandemic rules this past summer.
Prentice Butler, chief of staff to King, said that there have been issues with noise complaints at the business for the past three years. During the pandemic, Butler added, the business has occasionally been open illegally.
Police from the 2nd District, which covers Hyde Park, said that over the past six months there have been 37 calls for service for Hyde Park Cigars, and three citations have been issued for violations of pandemic-related guidelines.
The business was closed in August and issued two citations for "operating over capacity outdoors, and violating social distancing and masking guidelines," as reported at the time by the Tribune.
“The biggest issue that I’ve had is their blatant disregard for pandemic stay-at-home order, which they’ve violated numerous times,” said district Cmdr. Joshua Wallace.
Pamela Spann, an attorney with the city, recommended that Hyde Park Cigars put in place a plan that includes maintaining an emergency call and incident log, posting no loitering signs outside or near the business, hiring security and linking its security cameras to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.
Spann noted that the purpose of the meeting was to broker a solution to the problems with the business. If the problems aren’t resolved, then Hyde Park Cigars might be disciplined. “But we’re not there yet,” she said.
Michelle Truesdale, an attorney representing Hyde Park Cigars, said that the business would agree to the measures. Owner Fady Allen also said he would cooperate with the city, but defended himself against some of the complaints. He noted, for instance, that he had spent thousands of dollars to install a fan that would prevent smoke from blowing off the shop’s back patio.
“There is nothing asked of me that I have not done unless I am not aware of it. I can’t fix something I am not aware about,” Allen said.
“Both the commander and I, we don’t go looking for issues and problems,” King said in response. “We’ve got enough problems to deal with on our own — your problems come to us because you’re not a good actor in the community.”
King also noted that she was unhappy with the response her office had gotten when they’d tried to resolve these issues in the past.
“This has been kind of a problem business for some time. I think what sets it apart is that the business owners don’t seem to have a respect for the community or authority — whether it be police or complaints that we’ve gotten, or conversations that we’ve had with them directly,” she said. “My biggest concern that the responsiveness to these larger concerns has been met with what I feel is kind of obstruction and evasion.”
Several residents at the meeting raised similar concerns as police and King’s office, singling out issues with noise and littering in particular as problems.
“They were barbecuing on their patio so that smoke was being blown over to houses of people on Blackstone,” said Charlotte Lehnhoff, who lives nearby. “Very often when I walk by the cigar lounge on Harper there will be a group of people hanging out in front of it — some are wearing masks, some are not. Clearly it’s in violation of pandemic requirements.”
A follow-up meeting is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 11 a.m.