There has been an increase in violence within the Boystown area of Chicago. According to CWB Chicago, violence in Boystown and Wrigleyfield has increased 41%.
History of Boystown
Chicago is a city best known for being diverse and having many neighborhoods geared toward certain demographics. On the city’s West Side, one would find places like the Ukrainian Village or Greek Town. Downtown is Chicago’s popular tourist attraction as the location inhabits famous landmarks such as the Willis Tower and the bean.
While Chicago is the home of many of these attractions, there are definitely parts of the city that are geared towards the restoration and improvement of communities of minorities. Situated in the North Side of the city, is Boystown, Chicago’s LGBT community.
Boystown was the first officially recognized LGBT community in the United States. The community is home to one of the nation’s largest gay and lesbian populations. Boystown is famous for its very colorful and lively nightlife. Also, the community is known for the resources it provides members of the LGBT community. Essentially, it is supposed to be a safe place for them, even though it not always is.
In the 1970’s when Boystown was still an up and coming LGBT hot spot, there were many instances when heterosexual men would go to the area and target members of the LGBT.
Throughout time, majority of hate crimes have shifted to more economical crimes, but they still exist in the area. According to a Huffington Post article, there have been many anti-gay violence marches in the last couple of decades in order to help stop violence against LGBT people, but these attacks still happen. Like any other neighborhood with a popular nightlife scene, due to the large amounts of alcohol consumed, fights are always bound to occur.
Bar Fights in Boystown
Fighting in Boystown is not uncommon. Since there are many bars and clubs, a lot of alcohol is involved, which results in fights breaking out.
Teodor Nikolaev, a frequent visitor of Boystown, said that many of his friends who are bartenders at the bars in the area always witness these fights.
“The fights usually happen because the people are drunk,” he said .
Many times, people are not able to control themselves when they are under the influence of alcohol, they become aggressive, and tend to get into arguments with others. He added that sometimes, someone’s ex-boyfriend shows up, and they start to argue with each other, which eventually can lead to a fight breaking out.
Sidetrack bar, located at the corner of Halsted and Roscoe, has been open for over 30 years. Colin Smith, who is a security guard that works in one of the many bars in Boystown, attests to this as well. While Smith is from not from the city, he has shared his positive experience both living in Boystown and working at Sidetrack. “It is very rare that we have issues with people,” Smith states, “… I will say since I’ve worked here, I’ve experienced one [fight].”
Many of these fights tend to go array if the situation is not controlled or contained. These fights do typically start through alcohol induction and escalates because of such. “After a long time of drinking,” Smith states, “especially when we’re crowded, people’s personal space is invaded or other people don’t respect other people’s space.”
In July of 2017, a street brawl happened in the same location where Sidetrack Bar was located. This brawl had 10 people involved and private security patrol officers intervened to break up the fight.
At an earlier time in 2015, another brawl happened outside of Nookies Tree, a restaurant which is also located on the corner of Halsted and Roscoe. The emergence of these fights were so severe that Nookies Tree changed their business hours and closed at an earlier time.
Efforts in Resolving the Violence
In order to resolve fighting occuring in bars, bar workers tend to kick out the people fighting outside, in order to not make a huge scene inside.
Nikolaev said that many times, bartenders result in calling the police, if the fight can not be settled down. While volunteering at the Center on Halsted, Nikolaev said that although there is no active campaign against reducing the bar fights to occur, people would go to different bars and engage in conversation with the bar goers, to make sure they get home safe and advocate to reduce drinking.
Since much of the fighting happens outside when people linger after the bars close, Nikolaev said that police officers patrol the area in order to reduce people from staying out after the bars close.
Smith also discusses the ways in which Sidetrack abides by protocol dealing with bar violence. When the bar is crowded, six to eight security guards are working throughout the night to ensure safety for the guests.
“Separate and deescalate,” Smith said. “Get the parties as far away from each other as you possibly can, deescalate it, move everyone.”
He also discussed how there is a collaborative effort from all employees within the establishment. This becomes a very assuring and safe effort as businesses and police are becoming heavy on the amount of fights that happen throughout the area.
“Going out, [the violence is] never really a thing that I’ve experienced,” Smith reveals, “They’re just there to have a good time with themselves… People aren’t really going to swing on each other in Boystown.”