To the editors:
Chicago’s friendliest blues bar, Rosa’s, has received official notification that their liquor license will be revoked, thereby effectively closing (barring the unlikelihood of a successful appeal) one of the city’s most important blues clubs.
The action comes after the arrest of a part-time waitress who allegedly sold cocaine to an undercover policeman on the premises (and who is still working as a security guard at O’Hare Airport). At the hearing before the Liquor Commission it was the ungodly contention of city prosecutors that Mama Rosa, a diminutive, elderly Italian lady, not only condoned the alleged drug transaction but actually witnessed it. The undercover cop actually testified that despite the untold decibels blasting from the bandstand, Mama Rosa was able to overhear the illicit transaction, view the illegal substance for at least 15 seconds (15 seconds!!!), and gave her silent approval by making eye contact with the officer.
Having an abnormal interest in both the news and the blues, I anxiously awaited coverage of the story which seemed to have all the elements of a nice juicy expose: city officials fueled by petty motives marshaling the forces of government to extinguish a cultural beacon in what otherwise appears to be a postnuclear neighborhood (it was actually determined that the club was a detriment to the surrounding community. Anybody been out on West Armitage lately?), police testimony that sounded more like a monologue from the Mad Hatter, and of course Mama Rosa who, by all accounts, remains the closest on the west side resembling a saint.
Finally, in the July 9 issue of the Reader, Jeffrey Felshman took a stand. After reporting that Mama Rosa’s son, Tony, angrily denied ever paying off police, Felshman caustically observes, “If Rosa’s wasn’t paying maybe it should have been.”
For even a suggestion of the extent to which Rosa’s was getting screwed, you had to read Jeffrey Johnson in the Weekend section of the Tribune. The Tribune!
Perhaps we can look forward now to a moving, in-depth eulogy on the passing of Rosa’s but a journalistic gesture on behalf of justice would have been much more appreciated.
Jeffrey Felshman replies:
Mr. Kilman is right about Rosa’s. Closing it would be not only stupid and unnecessary, it would be unjust. The man who’s making the decision on Rosa’s appeal is Bill O’Donaghue; maybe this hearing will be different from the one with the liquor commissioner. To express your support for Rosa’s call him at 744-4095.
Incidentally, to give credit where it’s due, the article by Jeff Johnson was in the Sun-Times.