Ramblings from Reggie: Downtown shooting unfortunate, Cubs contending, and a one-year anniversary

The playoffs are off and running, and the air is cool. Fall is here! One can hope for a Yankees/Red Sox playoff series somewhere in there. Then, settle in and watch the Cubs/Yankees World Series.

We had an incident downtown a couple of weeks ago with an idiot pulling out a handgun and randomly shooting at a crowd of a couple hundred people. The immediate reaction is always interesting, and usually comical. For instance, the owners of the establishments that hosted the events were blamed in the local daily for not controlling the crowds outside their establishments. The incident was in the pedestrian mall, and the crowds were in the mall and in the city-owned lot behind Paragon. Neither of these is the responsibility of the bar owners. There was a policeman a few feet away, and the man fired off the rounds anyway. Everyone was doing their jobs, except the guy who decided to shoot.

Police did their jobs during the incident, quickly bringing it under control. So why all the negative press? Let’s not blame or stereotype. Let’s just say this was an unfortunate incident that can happen anywhere, and leave it at that.

Obviously, the owners of downtown establishments are saddened by this incident, but reality is there are more problems in the bars on the east side. Some bars you need to be wanded and frisked just to get inside. One east-side bar in particular was closed because of out-of-control crowds, and there have been many incidents around the east side that didn’t involve downtown. There are a lot of myths about downtown: it’s unsafe, the cops are all there, I’ll get a DUI, it’s dark, there’s nothing to do. If you believe any of these, you haven’t been down in a while. These are 30-year-old urban legends that keep getting repeated with no merit.

I was just at a new east-side eatery in the CherryVale complex. There were six guys for lunch, eating salads, chicken salad, a burger and a couple—maybe three—beers for $88, plus tip. I’m not opposed to spending a few bucks on a meal, but I have never been willing to stand in line on Fridays/Saturdays to overpay for food and beverages. The east-side chains are all packed. If I can’t get you to come downtown, then at least consider local people for your choices. They are your neighbors, spending their money locally.

I spoke with Corey Pearson on WNTA last week, and asked him about Davis Park. He told me they were going to put together a committee and focus on this problem shortly. I would be glad to assist them.

I don’t understand how the government can sanction gambling once they allowed bingo in Illinois decades ago. As far as I’m concerned, gambling is gambling. Let the free market determine where, and if, it should be, and then pay the taxes after they are established. By saying we need gambling boats to fund roads is not correct and disingenuous. Remember Blago saying he would never expand gambling? The politicians count on you not remembering. We pay a lot of dough for gasoline taxes. They are supposed to be funding roads. I don’t care if we gamble or not, let’s just be honest to the people.

Thursday night, Oct. 4, is Swilligan’s one-year anniversary under new ownership. Local legend Miles Nielsen and HMS will be playing. Also, Miles will be bringing many special guests, including a couple of huge surprises. Thanks for all your patronage at Swilligan’s, and remember we are here every day for you. The downtowners could use a little pickup, so make their registers ring, which should bring a smile back. Go Yankees, and remember the games are always on at Swilligan’s. Great food, big TVs and a friendly staff.

Reggie Roberson is owner of Swilligan’s “The Pub,” 200 N. Church St.

from the Oct. 3, 2007, issue

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