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Legal Blues: can Rosa's fight City Hall?



Your mama should never have such problems. Mama Rosa worked hard all her life, built herself a business here in America, but now the city might take it away from her. Why? They say she allowed a waitress to sell cocaine in her blues club. She insists she didn't know anything about it. The city says she did. Mama lived most of her life in Italy; she should know you can't fight city hall.

Mama and her son, Tony Mangiullo, who manages the club, have been through a lot lately. First the bust, and then a week later the police closed the place, serving a seven-day suspension just in time for the blues festival. The best week of the year. Now she finds out the city wants to revoke her license--"For the benefit and safety of the surrounding community." Is Rosa's blues club a danger to the community? You can go there and see for yourself, but don't wait too long. She's still open pending a decision on her hearing, but if the city revokes her license, no more Rosa's.

Chicago is nearly as famous for blues as it is for the Bulls and Al Capone, and the clubs always draw international visitors. Why would the city want to close one of its few blues clubs? Someone asked Mangiullo if he missed a payoff to somebody. He responded angrily, "Yeah, I missed a payoff. For eight years." If Rosa's wasn't paying maybe it should have been.

On the other hand, as the owner of a bar, Rosa is more responsible for the conduct of her employees (even one who only worked six hours a week like the busted waitress) than if she owned some other type of business. In the bar business ignorance of an employee's lawlessness is little excuse. The waitress, out on bond, has kept her day job as a security guard at O'Hare. She doesn't work at Rosa's anymore.

Fighting city hall can be expensive, so Rosa is holding a benefit at the club to help with legal expenses. Called "Blues for Mama," it will run for three nights this weekend, beginning at 9:30 Friday and Saturday, and 8 Sunday. The $10 admission gets you Mama's homemade eats and performances from a variety of artists. The club's at 3420 W. Armitage, and you can check the music listings in Section Three or call 342-0452 for more information on the lineup. Mama Rosa and her son hope the benefit will be a little like the blues festival they missed, only drier.

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