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Blues Band Claims Racism Against Owner Of Morgan Park Bar

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 26, 2014 9:40PM


A blog post written by a musician that levied some serious charges of racism against a Chicago Police officer is making a stir across local media. Brandon T. Bailey alleged the owner of McNally’s Bar in Morgan Park wouldn’t allow a third set early Sunday morning from Bailey’s band, The Reprieve Blues Band, because “there are too many black people in here.”

Mike Cummings was identified by Bailey as both the owner of McNally’s and a Chicago Police officer, and alleged in his post that Cummings “was visibly inebriated at the bar” when he made his statement about McNally’s racial makeup that night to the band’s saxophonist Glenn Oskvarek. (Bailey told Chicagoist Oskvarek was dealing with the band’s booking and payment directly with Cummings.)

Cummings paid the band and “made it clear that he was shutting it down.” Bailey, who is the only black member of the all white Reprieve Blues Band, said he invited several friends and family members to see him perform at McNally’s and estimated that 30 percent of the audience was black.

“We were contracted to play three 45-minute sets,” Bailey said. He added that there were no indications from crowd interaction there were any underlying racial tensions and that customers at the bar were “sitting together and having a good time.”

“I graduated from St. Rita,” Bailey said. “I’m familiar with the area around there and the bars on South Western and there’s no place for that type of behavior in 2014.”

“This should have been about the music at the end of the day,” Bailey added. “And I can’t embrace the notion that the area is an excuse for the situation and what happened.” He said he wrote the blog post as a way of starting a conversation about race. “This isn’t my experience alone.”

Aside from the (realistic) possibility of a drunken racist cop living in Morgan Park, if Cummings is the owner of McNally’s—and Chicagoist was told by employees at the bar he isn’t—or engaged in the management of the bar, this is a violation of the Police Department’s Rules of Conduct. Rule 18 of the code states police officers are prohibited from “(e)ngaging directly or indirectly in the ownership, maintenance, or operation of a tavern or retail liquor establishment.”

Chicagoist did some searching of property tax records and found a company called D&M LLC bought the building housing McNally’s last year. The address of that limited liability corporation matches the home address for Michael Cummings. Even with all these pieces put in place we can’t make the conclusion that Cummings owns McNally’s. A search of current liquor licenses at the City of Chicago Open Data Portal lists McNally's a DBA for a company called Ruth G., Inc. A search of current state liquor licenses shows Erin Cullom holds McNally’s liquor license but Cummings is listed as the company's agent. If Cummings is booking bands at McNally's and has a hand in its operations then he's in violation of the Police Department's Rules of Conduct. Police Department spokesman Adam Collins told DNAInfo Chicago an internal investigation is underway and Cummings could face discipline if Bailey's allegations are true.

(Rule 15 of the Police Department's Rules of Conduct, by the way, states officers may not be intoxicated on or off duty. How the Police Department would enforce the latter is anyone's guess.)

At this point there's a whole lot of conjecture with this story since neither Cullom nor Cummings are speaking to media. Bailey said he just wants to move on. "Ultimately it's an issue with the bar owner who decided he didn't want that many blacks in his establishment."

"The hatred came from one person," Bailey added. "The onus for that is on him."

Mcnally's land trust by Chicagoist