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Wild Hare Reggae Club To Close

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Wild Hare owner Zeleke Gessesse (CBS)

Wild Hare owner Zeleke Gessesse (CBS)

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Updated 4/18/2011 at 11:02 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — One of Chicago’s only full-time reggae music clubs is set to close its doors.

The Wild Hare has been in operation since 1986 at 3530 N. Clark St., just half a block south of Wrigley Field in Lakeview.

But after 25 years, amid a weak economy and changing musical tastes, owner Zekele Gessesse is closing the Wild Hare next month and moving back to his native Ethiopia, where he’ll open a new reggae club.

Yes, Ethiopia, not Jamaica.

Ethiopia has been plagued by civil war and famine. Gessesse himself left more than 30 years ago. But the country is now booming, he told CBS 2’s Jim Williams.

“Everybody comes here for the good times that they had here, and I’m happy that they had that,” Gessesse said. “I’m moving on to give more of that to my folks back home.”

The new Wild Hare will be in the Ethiopian capital city of Addis Ababa.

The Web site for the Wild Hare says it is known as “America’s reggae capital” to serious fans.

“At the Wild Hare, your passport is always waiting for you at the door. You’ll be instantly teleported into an exciting cultural oasis – where, with drink in hand, and the music flowing, you’ll feel exactly what Bob Marley meant when he sang ‘Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right,’” the Web site says.

The venue closes May 15. With Wild Hare closing, few offerings for reggae clubs in Chicago will remain.

Another club specializing in Reggae, Exedus II, sits just down the street at 3477 N. Clark St., and offers reggae four nights a week. Reggae DJs also spin regularly at Mr. Brown’s Lounge, 2301 W. Chicago Ave.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Pat Cassidy reports

And the stretch of Clark Street where the Wild Hare is located might be in for some even more dramatic changes.

The City Council approved plans last year for a massive new hotel, retail and residential development, called the Addison Park on Clark. The development would necessitate the demolition of the building that houses the brewpub and everything else on the block directly across the street from Wild Hare – including the Goose Island Brewpub, the Red Ivy, Mullen’s Bar and Grill, the Salt & Pepper Diner, the iO Theater and other bars and restaurants.

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