Death of a Regular/Don't Take It Outside/Schmitsville | Music Sidebar | Chicago Reader

Death of a Regular/Don't Take It Outside/Schmitsville 

Eugene Schulter/Not behind bars

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Death of a Regular

The news of former Replacements guitarist Bob Stinson's death two weeks ago was depressingly tied to the report that a syringe was found close to the body. Famously jettisoned from the band in 1986 for behavior self-destructive even by Replacements standards and apotheosized in Paul Westerberg songs like "Left of the Dial" and "Here Comes a Regular," Stinson was known as an extravagant drinker and determined junkie, and it seemed likely that the latter did him in. Or did it? There's no official cause of death yet.

Don't Take It Outside

The Great Tavern Scare of 1995 began the morning of Wednesday, February 8, with a front-page story in the Tribune. The article said that Alderman Eugene Schulter was proposing an ordinance that would revoke the liquor license of any establishment that generated five nuisance complaints in a year. The ordinance would hold bars responsible for their patrons' activities, not just on the bars' premises but anywhere in a two-block radius, allowing barroom flotsam--sports fans pissing on lawns, package-goods patrons drunk on the sidewalks (and the people they annoy)--to harm the establishments that spawned them.

The Great Scare ended the next day, as a smaller and shorter report buried in the second section revealed that the bill didn't have the support to pass and may not be heard of again. But Schulter raised a valid issue: shouldn't the pushers, so to speak, of societally sanctioned drugs be held responsible for their products' ill effects?

Schulter, a 20-year council vet who won the Democratic primary on Tuesday, says the legislation was prompted by certain bars he calls "the few bad apples" who "could care less what goes on in their neighborhoods." Neighbors, he said, have found that it takes too long to do something about these places.

Ironically, he points out, the bill was part of a city effort to make it easier for bar owners to sell their liquor licenses. Three years ago the city allowed aldermen to declare a moratorium on new liquor licenses in all or part of their wards. In moratorium areas a liquor license can be transferred only to a close family member or through a will. Schulter believes there's no reason that good bar owners shouldn't be able to sell their establishments. What he'd like to see is a way to officially designate the baddies. Hence the bill.

To obvious objections--the ordinance's opponents worry about spurious complaints, a vendetta against a single establishment--Schulter stresses that complainants would have to prove that the people responsible patronized the bar in question. But his proposal--which created a nice splash a week or two before the election--didn't fly. The Tribune reported that Daley lieutenants in the council

didn't back it, and other key aldermen, like Bernie Hansen, whose ward includes part of club- and bar-infested Lincoln Park, didn't like it either.

Opponents doubt the ordinance, if enacted, could be enforced adequately. "We're always encouraging bar owners to be as responsible as possible when it comes to their patrons," says Hansen. "[But] what do you do with a bachelor party that goes from bar to bar to bar to bar and eventually gets out of line? Which one do you go after? The last one? And how do you prove it?"

Metro's Joe Shanahan says Schulter's got a good idea. "Everyone should pitch in and make neighborhoods and venues safe," he says, "but how is it going to be applied in practice? What's going to happen when 30,000 fun-filled Saint Louis fans come out of Wrigley Field and start rolling down Clark Street? Or is it just the big bad nightclubs that are going to get into trouble over this?"

Shanahan has a good point: on a good day Wrigley Field, which is basically an aircraft-carrier-sized bar, can generate five nuisance complaints per hour--and there's nothing in Schulter's proposal that excludes such venues. Liquor establishments are not undermonitored by the city, and as Schulter says, most establishments cause few problems. But it's also true that most bar owners in Hitsville's experience are less than proactive on this issue, and it seems only fair that businesses whose central raison d'etre is getting people fucked up should take some responsibility for the mess that results.

Schmitsville

In the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop Poll, out this week, Hole's Live Through This takes top honors. Last year's poll-topper, Liz Phair, comes in sixth with Whip-Smart. No other Chicago act placed in the top 40, though Veruca Salt's American Thighs, at 41, just missed. But the balloting of almost 300 daily, alternative, and fanzine music critics did select the band's "Seether" as the year's number-two single (behind Beck's "Loser")....Both the Tribune and the Sun-Times ran lengthy pre-Grammy articles, the Trib in the Friday section, the Sun-Times in the new Sunday Showcase. Yet over the course of what was by Hitsville's calculations some 200-plus inches of big-city newspaper space, neither paper bothered to share with its readers the date or time of the broadcast.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Jim Alexander Newberry.

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