Sometimes a mass shooting or two is not enough to close a nightclub in Chicago. Will this one be different?

A television news crew outside Blüm nightclub on October 9, 2023. Orange stickers posted by the city announce the business’ summary closure following a mass shooting the night before. | CWBChicago

CHICAGO — Television news crews wandered about the sidewalk Monday afternoon near Blüm, the River North nightclub that the local alderman blamed for a mass shooting (video) that left eight people injured on the street Sunday. Orange stickers on the club’s door and front window announced the “summary closure” of the business by Chicago Police Supt. Larry Snelling, who deemed the operation a public safety threat.

Whether that closure will become permanent remains to be seen. Businesses have the right to appeal summary closures, and the city has been reticent to force clubs to close down even after a mass shooting. Or two.

Ald. Brendan Reilly’s frustration with the commissioner of business affairs and the city’s liquor commissioner boiled over after Sunday’s shooting. The alderman fired off a statement calling on city “bureaucrats” to “do their jobs, stop catering to these bad actors and start revoking liquor licenses.”

Sunday’s mass shooting was the second this year and the third since September 2021 that officials have said was linked to Blüm or its previous incarnation as Clutch Bar. Despite those allegations, the club continued to operate.

But Blüm wasn’t singled out for special treatment. Just last year, Loop residents blamed two mass shootings on patrons of a single bar in the Loop. But it continued to operate until, prosecutors say, its doorman shot and killed one of the bouncers.

River North problems

On a sunny evening in mid-June, dozens of shots were fired during a shocking ambush that left a man critically injured in the 300 block of West Erie.

Surveillance video showed the victim walking on the sidewalk when a group of gunmen emerged from a parked car and began shooting at him. He fell, got up, and ran down the street. One of the gunmen chased him down the block, firing rounds at the victim until he fell to the ground.

Reilly, the alderman, linked that crime to Blüm, which is located on the same block.

“Based on preliminary findings, the victim of the shooting was a patron of Blüm [nightclub], and the shooter(s) came downtown to seek him out,” Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) wrote in a letter to neighbors.

“I have asked the local police commander and liquor commissioner to investigate the nightclub Blum and, if witness reports are substantiated, initiate the license revocation process to shut them down,” he continued.

The club continued to operate until Sunday.

“It should not require a mass shooting to result in the closure of a problem nightclub,” Reilly said Sunday. “River North residents and I have been sounding the alarm to the city about Blüm for years – yet the city has done nothing to discipline the club.”

“How many more people need to get shot before the city steps up to the plate and starts shutting down these bad operators? Downtown residents should not be forced to suffer because city bureaucrats refuse to do their jobs.”

In fact, a mass shooting or two may not be enough for the city to close a business permanently.

Wells Street shootings

Of the 38 people shot in the Loop last year, a number that eclipses any other year since at least 2001, eleven of them were shot in the 400 block of South Wells. And three more were shot a block over in the 400 block of South Clark.

The shootings began early on May 3.

Two gunmen on the sidewalk began shooting at an SUV stopped for a red light, Chicago police said at the time. More than 30 shell casings, including some rifle rounds, were found at the scene. Three people in the SUV were injured, as was a woman crossing the street.

Neighbors immediately pointed the finger at patrons of PER.SO.NA nightclub, 408 South Wells.

Fingerpointing and proving responsibility are two different things, of course, and PER.SO.NA continued to operate.

A second mass shooting occurred on the block two months later, around 1:44 a.m. on July 1.

Police said the victims got into an argument with someone as they left an unnamed business in the 400 block of South Wells. That “someone” started shooting. He killed two and wounded three more.

Personnel stationed at Chicago Fire Department Engine Company 1, 419 South Wells, were the first to call in the gunfire. Video tweeted by a nearby resident shows an ambulance stationed at the firehouse leaving on a run as gunfire erupted.

A month later, at 3:20 a.m. on August 6, three people were shot during an argument in a parking lot in the 400 block of South Clark. Two of them died. Surveillance video of the shooting spread online. Residents again blamed the club, but no links were proven.

Only after prosecutors accused PER.SO. NA’s doorman of murdering another of the club’s security guards did the city finally force the business to close.

Officials said Devontrell Turnipseed shot and killed 38-year-old Artemis Harris on October 9 after Harris complained that Turnipseed was not properly searching incoming customers for guns.

The two men decided to take their disagreement outside, where they squared up on the sidewalk, officials said. Turnipseed, a licensed concealed carry holder, allegedly removed a gun from a holster on his waistband and appeared to be passing it off to another guard when Harris punched him in the face.

Turnipseed fired three shots as he fell to the ground, striking Harris twice in the chest, prosecutors said. Harris, who was not armed, died a short time later.

The murder case is still pending.

PER.SO. NA’s owner announced on October 14 that she would surrender her license to the city.

One week later, a 55-year-old man was shot as he sat in a car across the street from the nightclub, which had been shuttered.

There have been no shootings on the block since then.

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About Tim Hecke 329 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com