Home Local Blue Island bar owner says there are racial disparities in how city treats businesses

Blue Island bar owner says there are racial disparities in how city treats businesses

by staff

The manager of two Blue Island bars that were shut down after shootings involving customers are alleging discrimination in the way officials enforce regulations on businesses.

Raymond Thomas, manager of Raven’s Place and The Vault in Blue Island, who is Black, shared two videos posted online in April that show a verbal altercation.

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The video shows a person, who Blue Island Ald. Dexter Johnson said is affiliated with another bar on the block, yelling racial slurs and arguing with law enforcement officers and a Raven’s Place security guard.

“It is very disturbing in this day and age that people still act like that,” Johnson said.

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The person Johnson said is in the video could not be reached for comment and calls placed Thursday to the other business were not returned.

City administrator Thomas Wogan said the video shows an individual who “said despicable things,” but said the video is a separate issue from shutting down Raven’s Place and The Vault after shooting incidents involving customers from the businesses.

“It was very unfortunate. It’s not reflective of what people want to see in the city of Blue Island,” Wogan said.

No one was charged or arrested after the yelling incident and no action was taken against the bar, Wogan said.

Raven’s Place and The Vault, located next to each other in the 13000 block of Western Avenue, were shut down under an emergency closure order after Blue Island officials say a customer left The Vault on New Year’s Eve and fired a gun into the air outside the another bar. The city upheld the closure during a hearing Jan. 6.

“The City of Blue Island made a decision to close the doors of our establishment that many residents and families have come to love,” Thomas said in a news release. “Our only goal is to serve the community, local officials, and residents of Blue Island with excellence. We created a great atmosphere to do that, and we truly hope to open our doors again soon.”

Wogan said the city has temporarily shut down Raven’s Place and The Vault on three other occasions — in May 2021, September 2022 and New Year’s Eve — following shootings by customers.

“Every business owner in Blue Island is treated equally and on merits. The reason Raven’s Place and The Vault had their liquor license revoked is only because of violent shootings involving Raven’s patrons,” Wogan said.

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It is not the first time racial bias has been alleged in Blue Island.

On June 19, 2018, the Blue Island City Council voted 10-3 to uphold then-Mayor Domingo Vargas’ revocation of the business license for Island Sports Bar & Grill. The business license was revoked following a shooting outside the establishment.

Johnson, one of three council members who voted to reinstate Island Bar’s business license, said Thursday his support was because the owner, Adam Shorter, who is Black, was open to working with city officials to make security adjustments.

Raven’s Place and The Vault management have been given multiple chances, Johnson said.

“I never want a business to leave Blue Island, but the first thing I look for is safety,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said situations where someone fires a gun and someone yells racial slurs are “kind of different.” That means, he said, the punishment for those incidents should be different.

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“The guy was uttering racial slurs but no one got shot. There’s a difference between verbal abuse and physical abuse,” Johnson said.

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