The Post Was “A Bridge” To Venues Like The Warehouse. Now Its Future Is Uncertain
Written by Vocalo Radio on March 23, 2023
Chicago officials shut down The Post on March 18, a beloved South Side club that’s considered “a bridge” to an older era of house music venues. According to The Post’s de facto programmer, Sheldon Randolph, the venue was inadvertently operating without several required licenses. In addition to what he was cited for, he says he would get a late hour license if he could — but because the city makes these licenses so difficult to obtain, he may be forced to choose between operating illegally and not at all.
“It meant so much to have a place on the South Side coming directly from the hands of pioneers who were making [the house music scene] decades ago,” says Chicago DJ CtrlZora.
Around 11 p.m. on March 18, officials from the Chicago Department of Buildings shut down The Post, a beloved South Side dance club, for alleged building code violations. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protections also issued cease-and-desist orders to the venue for operating without several required business licenses.
The Post, located on the border of the Washington Park and Englewood neighborhoods, sits above a Veterans of Foreign Wars post. The second-floor venue has been a Chicago nightlife hotspot since June 2019.
Sheldon Randolph, de facto programmer at The Post, modeled the club on spaces like The Power Plant and The Warehouse, the former South Side club known as the birthplace of house music.
“It was the underground feel. It was the darkness, the music, the sound, the people,” Randolph says. “[The Post] is the only place today that harkens back to that time. It’s a bridge.”
Part of the spirit of The Post is that it’s open late, Randolph says, with parties often going until 5 a.m. on weekends. The venue is known for its no-frills atmosphere, intergenerational crowd and dedication to house music. “I don’t see other places recreating that,” Randolph says. “There’s an intermingling of ages, races, genders — the whole mix of everything. It’s about the party.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by many who dance and DJ at the venue.
“I can’t think of any other place that embodies the true roots of Chicago house other than The Post,” says Zora, whose DJ name is CtrlZora and who is currently organizing a fundraiser to support the space. “It meant so much to have a place on the South Side coming directly from the hands of pioneers who were making this decades ago. There are barely any actual venues on the South Side that book not only Chicago legends, but legends all around, pushing house and freedom rhythms.”
Chicago DJs like Glenn Underground, Duane Powell and Mike Dunn have played at the venue, as have out-of-town talent like New York-based Joe Clausell and Detroit-based Theo Parrish, who was scheduled to return to The Post the night it was shut down.
Like many underground venues, The Post does not have all the business licenses mandated by the city. While the VFW post it sits above has a not-for-profit club license (a special type of liquor license for organizations like VFWs), according to city data, The Post itself does not have any current active business licenses with the city, which it needs as a separate venue. Randolph says he had been under the impression the license for the first-floor space also covered the second-floor venue, but it does not. On the night of the shutdown, The Post received ordinance violation notices for failure to produce licenses required for event spaces that host DJs and sell alcohol for consumption on premises.
Some of the most famous Chicago venues would not have been able to operate under today’s license requirements. The Warehouse, for instance, could only stay open all night because it was technically considered a juice bar, which at the time did not have to adhere to liquor bar hours. Today The Warehouse is considered part of Chicago history and is currently on Preservation Chicago’s list of most endangered places. Just last year, over 30,000 people attended Chicago’s Chosen Few Picnic, which would not exist without the legacy of these influential spaces and which creates an economic stimulus for the South Side community.
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Under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, the city drastically cut down on the number of liquor licenses — including late hour liquor licenses — it granted, bringing about the end of Chicago’s “bar on every corner” days and ushering in a “new Prohibition.” And in 1987, a Chicago alderman launched an offensive against Medusa’s, another all-night dance club, which resulted in the juice bar loophole, used by spaces like The Warehouse, going away.
Separate from business license requirements, there are building code requirements. Building inspectors cited exposed wiring and at least one obstructed exit among the reasons for closing the venue Saturday night, according to a statement provided by a Department of Buildings and Consumer Protections spokesperson. (Because The Post is not currently a licensed business, it has not been subject to regulated building inspections.) Randolph disputes the city’s claim that The Post is out of compliance with building codes.
There are, of course, reasons to hold events in spaces that meet building codes. While many venues may never encounter issues, the memories of ones that do loom large. In 2003, a stampede at E2 nightclub in Chicago’s South Loop started when a security guard hired by the venue tried to break up a fight using pepper spray. Part of the problem (beyond the security guard pepper-spraying patrons) was the crush of the crowd caused by building code violations as people rushed to exit, which led to the deaths of 21 people.
Even if Randolph is able to resolve the building code issues with the city and to obtain the business licenses he was cited for operating without, he’s still faced with an additional licensing issue. This one may be the hardest to resolve.
Randolph says to maintain the spirit of The Post, he would need a special kind of liquor license known as a late hour license, which allows venues to stay open and sell alcohol until 4 or 5 a.m. on weekends. He says he has considered applying for a late hour license in the past but heard the application process is often futile.
Late hour licenses are highly regulated. Among other requirements, for a business to get a late hour license, the majority of voters registered within 500 feet of the business must agree to it. Today, only about 120 venues across the city have late hour licenses.
“Classical house parties, they just naturally end at 4 or 5 a.m.,” Zora says. “That’s not anything new. Because you want to give the DJ time to give a full, fleshed-out set. The Post cares about the authenticity of that experience.”
Recently, some aldermen have pushed for the late hour license to be removed entirely, citing public safety concerns.
According to city data, there were 12 incidents classified as crimes that occurred on the block where The Post is located in the year leading up to the venue’s shutdown. Two of these appear to be associated with the liquor store down the block, but none with The Post itself. And just one occurred between the hours of 2 and 8 a.m. (FOIA requests submitted by WBEZ to the Chicago Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management and Communication and 311 to confirm the venue was not the location of any incidents have not been returned at the time of publication.)
Randolph says he feels the fact that acquiring a late hour license is so difficult means people like him have to choose between operating illegally and not at all.
“If I could get a five o’clock license, I’d get a five o’clock license,” Randolph says. “The Post is not a problem venue. There was no crime, there was none of that going on.”
Randolph says he’s open to moving to a different South Side location, but with late hour licenses few and far between, legal venues that stay open until the morning hours are hard to come by. “If I can’t do it here, suggest a place I can move to,” he says. “I’m open to suggestions.”
According to city data, there are only a handful of venues with active late hour licenses on the South Side, including Jeffery Pub, which banned patrons younger than 30 last year.
With The Post closed until the venue can meet ordinance requirements, many who know and love the space feel the city is losing out on the creative energy that led to Chicago being the birthplace of house music in the first place.
“When I’ve been at The Post, I’ve heard 60-year-olds say, ‘I haven’t had that feeling of The Warehouse again until tonight,’ ” Zora says. “There are certain places in Chicago that feel like a time capsule. … The Post has curators who really, really care about the musical history of Chicago, who have been laying the foundation for Black dance music for decades now. And of all places, you’re going to take down a dance space? You’re going to shut down the one place that’s liberatory and safe and designed for people to get their emotions out in a productive way, an alchemizing way, that bridges ties intergenerationally? It’s extremely disheartening.”
Randolph is currently trying to set up a meeting with Ald. Jeanette Taylor of the 20th Ward. He hopes that with her support — and the support of those who have come to DJ and dance at The Post over the years — he’ll be able to keep the connection to an older era of house music venues alive.
Written by Maggie Sivit
Photos by Victor Price III
Edited by Ayana Contreras
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