Downtown Naperville business owners say it's too soon to pass blame and point fingers for a tragic but otherwise isolated incident: the weekend fatal stabbing of local schoolteacher Shaun Wild at Frankie's Blue Room.
Just one day after the Saturday morning stabbings, which injured two and killed Wild, Naperville City Councilman Doug Krause called for tougher liquor laws for a downtown he says has gotten out of control with “mobs” congregating in a scene that resembles Chicago's Rush Street.
“Krause should be ashamed of himself. He actually sat on the liquor subcommittee. He knows all the stats, and he knows there's not a problem downtown,” Jim Bergeron, owner of Jimmy's Grill at 245 W. Washington St., across the street from Frankie's Blue Room, said Monday. “He knows nothing could have been changed to prevent an isolated incident like this. It's absolutely a tragedy — but in what world can you protect yourself from a guy who decides to go out drinking with a knife in his pocket?”
The stabbing was the second in less than a year at a downtown Naperville bar. In March 2011, a bouncer at BlackFinn American Saloon was stabbed while escorting two people from the bar who were caught smoking in the bathroom.
Krause also complained that there were more than 6,000 police service calls in downtown Naperville last year while bars rarely are punished for problems that occur.
Police Chief David Dial said Monday that Krause's remarks need some clarification.
“We do get 6,000 calls a year in a very densely populated downtown area, and those include accidents, alarm calls, building checks, vehicle lockouts and many other things. And I can tell you 4,000 of them were calls initiated by the police officer,” Dial said. “We get between 85,000 and 90,000 calls per year, and a majority of them are not at the bars.”
Nancy Quigley, owner of Quigley's Irish Pub at 43 E. Jefferson Ave., said it would be more appropriate to grieve than to pass blame for the tragedy.
“This town is in mourning, and people who are going to do knee-jerk reactions, it's not going to help anybody,” she said. “I think Councilman Krause is wrong to use this for his personal gain. I think everybody needs to work together.”
Ray Kinney, secretary to the Naperville Development Partnership board of directors and chairman of restaurants and marketing, said the restaurant association works closely with police and city officials to keep the area safe.
“It's way too premature to be discussing rampant changes to our ordinances when we need to be supporting this family,” Kinney said. “We're all very hurt by the situation and the councilman making those statements. I'd much rather have a conversation together.”
Kinney said Frankie's Blue Room is considered one of the most proactive establishments in downtown. He said owner Riff Menza has hired extra security staff and tried to bring in musical entertainment that would draw an appropriate crowd.
“He works very, very hard, and he is heartbroken over this,” Kinney said. “This is one of the few places that has live music. He takes that role very responsibly.
“First, we need to embrace this family and the pain we're all feeling right now and get through that. Then we can have a real thoughtful conversation. Nobody wants to see this happen in this community.”
John Schmitt, president and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Katie Wood, executive director of the Downtown Naperville Alliance, responded to calls for comment Monday with a joint statement.
“When we witness such a needless loss of life and violence against others, we are often pained by the inexplicability of the circumstances and cause,” they wrote. “There will be a time and a place to review the particulars of this terrible incident and to try to take away whatever lessons are to be learned. But our community's focus must remain on caring for the families, students and friends who must deal with the burden of this tragedy.”
Krause said he intends to start a discussion on tougher liquor laws at Tuesday night's city council meeting.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.