By Tim Hadac
Southwest Chicago Post
A month and a day after the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection declared the Rainbow Motel to be a “public nuisance,” the motel’s attorney announced that the Rainbow plans to fight City Hall with a lawsuit.
The revelation came in a Tuesday afternoon meeting at City Hall, the third in three months between city government, Rainbow owners and managers, two Southwest Side aldermen, Chicago Lawn (8th) District police and a handful of Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch members.
In a move that began last summer, several hundred Southwest Side residents have signed a petition urging City Hall to bring a “nuisance case” against the Rainbow Motel, 7050 W. Archer.
The petition drive was organized initially by 13th Ward Ald.
Marty Quinn, but was quickly handed off to new 23rd Ward Ald. Silvana Tabares. The motel is in the 23rd Ward.
Some Garfield Ridge residents—many with the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch crime fighting group—have claimed that the motel is a haven for misdemeanor crimes like prostitution, drug abuse, public urination and defecation, harassment of local school children and more.
As further evidence illustrating their concerns, GRNW members mentioned an October 26 incident at the motel, in which a woman claimed she was robbed and sexually assaulted in one of the rooms--which GRNW members and police said appeared to have been used as an overnight party room by a handful of West Side residents.
Police said there were no arrests made during the incident, but noted that several windows had been smashed--apparently by the victim's friends and relatives, who came to the motel after they heard her claims.
A nuisance case can be a first step towards revocation of a business license.
The three meetings, according to BACP attorney Marianne Rieger, are part of a process designed to bring together businesses and neighbors with concerns. She has said that the tactic is successful a majority of the time.
The process failed Tuesday.
The meeting, scheduled to last an hour, was stopped 32 minutes after it started when Rieger declared the meeting to be unsuccessful and adjourned it—moments after Rainbow’s attorney, Adeena J. Weiss-Ortiz announced the planned lawsuit.
Most in the room appeared to agree that Rainbow management has made significant progress on a list of suggested improvements handed to them by BACP in September: upgraded security and maintenance measures, as well as improved outreach to the community.
But the sticking point between BACP and the Rainbow is short-term stays. The Rainbow rents its rooms for as little as four hours, and Weiss-Ortiz pointed out that the law allows them to do that.
Rieger countered that BACP has the administrative authority to request that the Rainbow not offer short stays—if doing so causes problems or concerns among nearby residents.
Some neighbors have said that short stays are an invitation for the Rainbow to be used by prostitutes and johns, as well as people buying and selling drugs.
Weiss-Ortiz disputed the aldermen’s contention that activity at and around the Rainbow has resulted in 44 calls for police service to date this year. In response, new Eighth District Commander Brian McDermott checked statistics he brought with him and confirmed the number.
Weiss-Ortiz claimed that BACP and the aldermen are unfairly targeting the Rainbow, and she claimed that the nearby Walgreens at Archer and Harlem generates more 911 calls, as does a comparable motel—the Skylark, near Archer and Cicero.
Nonetheless, Rainbow officials proposed a compromise: that they would only offer short stays on Fridays, Saturday and Sundays—rather than seven days a week.
The idea was rejected by Rieger, which prompted Weiss-Ortiz to announce the lawsuit.
It remains to be seen if BACP will now move to revoke the Rainbow’s business license.
The Rainbow Motel has been around since 1954. Its tall sign was reportedly erected in the early 1960s so that motorists on the new Southwest Expressway (which opened in in 1964 and was later renamed the Stevenson) could see it easily.
The Rainbow expanded in the 1970s when it absorbed what had been a fast-food restaurant, according to a WBEZ-FM report last year that quoted manager Sagar Patel.
Over the years, its imaginative and occasionally outlandish “theme rooms” have included a pink palace, a space-walk room, Valentine’s suite, a Las Vegas room, a “night in Paris” room and more.
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