On any given day, when 27-year-old Tenise Williams would be out and about in Calumet Heights, she’d stop by Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge. She and her friends were regulars there; vibing to the music, enjoying a cocktail and grubbing on her favorite menu item: the buffalo wings.

Around 6:00 A.M. on Monday, March 7, a fire engulfed the restaurant. Williams, a Grand Crossing native, found out about the fire on social media. It caught her by surprise. She was just at the restaurant on March 5, the Saturday before the fire.

The fire damaged the building so badly that city crews are planning to demolish it, city spokesperson Ryan Johnson confirmed on Tuesday. In a statement to The TRiiBE, the Department of Buildings (DOB) said the remaining portions of the building are “structurally compromised and unsound, and pose an imminent threat to public safety and have therefore issued an emergency demolition order.”

City crews have not yet demolished the building. The TRiiBE went to the area on Wednesday morning around 8:30 A.M.

When news about the fire spread to social media, Williams said she was devastated. She called Nipsey’s her “go-to place.”

“I’m gonna miss everything about Nipsey’s down from the drinks, to the food, to the workers, to the security guards, to just the place itself,” Williams told The TRiiBE.  

Located at 9156 S. Stony Island Avenue, Nipsey’s caught fire on multiple sides, according to the Chicago Fire Department (CFD). No one was hurt in the fire, and there’s no indication of the cause or origin of the fire, CFD spokesperson Larry Langford wrote in an email to The TRiiBE on Tuesday.

The investigation into the fire is ongoing. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol and Tobacco Firearms Explosives (ATF) are assisting CFD with the investigation.

“Using ATF does not mean that anything nefarious is suspected. Rather it means we need more help to make the determination,” Langford wrote. 

Nipsey’s opened back in November 2020. Operated by Teddy Gilmore, a Black restaurateur and nightlife promoter, Nipsey’s is a restaurant theme after the fictional bar and grill in the 1990s sitcom, Martin. Gilmore is the director of operations at Nipsey’s. 

Before launching Nipsey’s, Gilmore previously operated several restaurants throughout Chicago, including the shuttered DrinkHaus in Greektown and Nouveau Tavern in River North. Both places closed in 2019 and 2015, respectively, after city code violations and a “drug and gang ordinance nuisance” notice from City Hall.

TRiiBE culture correspondent Rome J. interviewed Gilmore back in November 2020 on TRiiBE TV’s “We Real Chicago” show. During the interview, Gilmore spoke about his experiences with Chicago’s nightlife scene and his decision to open Nipsey’s on the South Side. 

“I always wanted to come back [to the South Side],” Gilmore told Rome J. “There’s something to be said about when you walk down the street and you don’t have to worry about people characterizing you, or you’re a stereotype. You’re at home.” 

On March 7, Gilmore issued a statement about the fire on his personal Instagram page. The same statement was shared on Nipsey’s social media pages.

“We are heartbroken, distraught, and beyond saddened to learn of a fire that happened at Nipsey’s Restaurant & Lounge early Monday morning. We are grateful that our staff and the community are safe. We appreciate those of you that have reached out in support. Right now, we’re just trying to understand what happened and what the next steps are. Our thoughts are with all of our team members and all who are directly impacted by this devastating news,” the statement read.

The TRiiBE reached out to Gilmore on Tuesday afternoon for comment. Gilmore directed The TRiiBE to a spokesperson who could not be reached by publishing time. 

According to Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), Nipsey’s has received citations dating back to December 2021. Those citations include failures to: maintain and monitor occupancy limits, display a sign which reads “Please Respect Our Neighbors, Please Exit Quietly and Do Not Litter,” and produce a logbook of all illegal activity reported or required to be reported by the Chicago Police Department.

To date, there are 13 violations total, including 12 additional charges currently under review  by the city’s law department. BACP will continue to pursue disciplinary action against Nipsey’s, BACP spokesperson Elisa Sledzinska confirmed in an email to The TRiiBE on Tuesday.

A viral social media video showed a fight between two people that broke out at Nipsey’s on March 5, the Saturday before the fire. Williams was there, and said it’s unclear what started the fight. She said she’d never seen a fight at Nipsey’s before, although she has seen verbal altercations occur there before.

Prior to the fire, Nipsey’s had a scheduled hearing in front of the Mayor’s License Discipline Commission on Feb. 25. That hearing has since been postponed to Friday, March 11 

Over the years, news outlets have reported multiple complaints from Ald. Michelle Harris (8th Ward) residents who live nearby. Those complaints include incidents of public urination, cars blasting loud music, gunfire, and patrons parking in private driveways. According to Block Club Chicago, some residents were also pushing for the lounge to close, and they described their experiences with the restaurant being in the neighborhood. 

Williams said she never witnessed any public urination outside the lounge. However, she has experienced parking issues. She said the parking lot wasn’t large enough to accommodate weekend crowds; so finding a park in the lot or on the street was challenging. 

In terms of noise complaints, she added: “It do be loud, but I mean it’s an entertainment place.” 

is a multimedia producer for The TRiiBE.