Rashad Bailey opened Dinner & a Movie in Chicago’s gentrified neighborhood of Lincoln Park just under four months ago. In that time Bailey says he has endured countless false complaints about his business.
“That same day we opened [April 30] is when the police started coming,” Bailey told Block Club Chicago. The people Bailey suspects are behind the calls are white residents not open to seeing an influx of Black people in their neighborhood.
“They were there the first day we opened, second day, third day and the fourth day. Then, the next thing you know, I’ve got Business Affairs and Consumer Protection showing up.”
Making matters worse were shots that rang out during a brawl at the location on June 27. Chicago Police say the incident began inside Dinner & a Movie but poured out onto the sidewalk on the 2500 block of Ashland Ave. around 1 a.m. — an hour after the restaurant closes. No one was injured despite seventeen rounds being fired.
Part of Bailey’s frustrations is that his establishment was already being perceived as a magnet for riffraff. He claimed the night of the shooting he called police when he was unable to get the crowd to disperse, but officers did not arrive until the melee had already disrupted residents.
“I told them, ‘People aren’t dispersing,’ and asked them to send me just one car. But instead they showed up after the shooting with 20 cars and a lot of excuses.” Still, the scene was enough to strike a major nerve with community members who already felt Dinner & a Movie was attracting a loud and troublesome crowd. As a result, police shut the business down for a week.
The history of gentrifying the trendy neighborhood dates back to the 1940s, when white middle-class families began to move in and refurbish Victorian-era homes in a working-class neighborhood that was already 98 percent white. As the neighborhood’s property values increased, the population of low-income families was slowly displaced by the 1960s. Since then the neighborhood that is situated near the Gold Coast and Lake Michigan has boasted a growing influx of redevelopment and white degree-holding persons moving in. It’s that very population, that makes up roughly 77 percent of residents, that have made running Dinner and a Movie more of a pain than bliss.
“For the neighbors, I feel like it’s too many Black people, but you can’t just say there’s too many Black people so you have to say that something illegal is going on,” said Bailey. That illegal activity includes operating as a tavern instead of a restaurant whose liquor license was approved for adult beverages to accompany meals — not for all-night happy hour.
“The neighbors will call the police and say there’s battery, property damage, noise or some type of abuse, but they’re made up 911 calls because up until the one shooting, nothing has happened; otherwise those 911 calls would have found something,” he explained.
In an effort to smooth over tensions, a community meeting was held. Residents and city officials voiced their concerns about the lively nature of the patrons frequenting the establishment. And from it came the suggestion that security be present, signs reminding patrons that loitering is prohibited be posted, and Dinner and a Movie’s security stream be made accessible to the city’s emergency systems. Much of which Bailey has already done. Still he feels unwelcome in a neighborhood that has shown no real interest in his business’s presence.
“It’s disheartening because nobody is doing anything at my restaurant. I feel like neighbors go to their windows, see people walking down the street and just call the police,” he said. “We’re supposed to be a neighborhood restaurant, but the neighborhood doesn’t support us so we’re just a restaurant.”