Robinson's and race

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There is a contretemps on Madison Street that needs immediate conversation and reconciliation. It involves Robinson's Bar & Grill, the updated version of the iconic Robinson's #1 Ribs, which has been at home on this street since the 1980s.

Charlie Robinson moved his restaurant a block over last year after village government actively worked to purchase his previous location to clear space for a townhouse project. The new location, a former Leona's, is bigger with amenities that have shifted it toward more full-service bar and event space.

Two nights a week Robinson's hosts a dance party that draws a large, and largely black, audience for step dancing. Calls to Oak Park police have increased, a combination of noise complaints, crowd control, and let's be plain, over-sensitivity to large gatherings of African Americans out on the town.

We've known Charlie Robinson for nearly 40 years. Hard to get a rise out of this gracious man. When he calls this out as having a racial element and talks about moving his business out of town, it is time to stop talking and listen. 

Skip the alarm talk of who is a racist and let's have the conversation about racial bias that impacts all of our perceptions and sometimes our actions. This is an opportunity.

Reader Comments

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Haney Ned  

Posted: August 17th, 2018 12:57 PM

It's a noise complaint, not a race complaint. Very unfortunate reaction from Charlie Robinson and distracting from what the problem is and an easy solution so he can continue to promote events at his business that are obviously successful. If Charlie does choose to leave Oak Park, then the Village should demand repayment of the $100,000 of tax payer money that was provided to Charlie for the rehabbing his new building.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: August 17th, 2018 11:15 AM

Wouldn't this be a great opportunity for Robinson's and the community to work together to figure this out? It seems most like Robinson's and are fine with the DJ nights. They just want to discuss the impact on the area. Seems fair. Let's solve issues and not just poke at them online. This could end up being a real positive if it's used to bring people together.

Larry Skiver from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2018 9:16 AM

We have the same problem at the end of our block. The wire's music can be a little loud and then cars parked on our street. When they leave, there is bottles and trash strewn about. He have asked the Village to contact them about the problem but to no avail. It has fallen on deaf ears.

Neal Buer  

Posted: August 16th, 2018 8:36 PM

It 's hard to have a conversation after someone plays the race card.

Edward Costello  

Posted: August 16th, 2018 5:40 PM

Thank you Tom, that's a great point, after all this is Oak Park and if we were all this biased we would have never moved here!!

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2018 10:28 AM

The WJ assumes the unhappy residential neighbors are all white? There are black families with children who need their sleep too. The dialogue needed would be for an apology from Mr. Robinson to his neighbors. Big difference between a family rib restaurant and a nightclub.

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