Chuck E. Cheese Pleads Case Before Oak Lawn Village Board Regarding Negro Violence
OAK LAWN, IL — The Oak Lawn mayor and trustees remain skeptical that chronic security problems at Chuck E. Cheese’s will be able to be resolved or prevent a future violent incident from erupting, following a last-ditch plea by the restaurant chain’s corporate president to remain open there.
CEC Entertainment President Roger Cardinale flew up from the company’s corporate headquarters in Dallas to speak to village board members during Tuesday’s meeting. Cardinale presented a security plan for Chuck E. Cheese’s, which has been in Oak Lawn for more than 30 years at 4031 W. 95th St.
The enhanced security plan follows the most recent violent incidents in August, when an off-duty Oak Lawn police officer providing on-site security was assaulted trying to break up a fight.
“CEC is committed to being a good partner to you and the community,” Cardinale said. “We believe our most recent efforts to ensure the safety of our guests who visit our restaurant have been effective.”
Carindale rattled off new safety measures recommended by a renowned outside security consultant, Donald Green, president of Strategic Security Concepts, who visited the Oak Lawn location on Sept. 22 and Sept. 23.
In 2013, village officials pressured CEC into hiring off-duty Oak Lawn police officers to provide security at the children’s fun emporium. Seating capacity and game machines have also been reduced, and in 2014, CEC voluntarily surrendered its Oak Lawn liquor license when a fight was captured on video by a local reporter.
Carindale also noted that while CEC has spent millions building its national brand by supporting such organizations as Big Brothers-Big Sisters, it has done a terrible job executing its brand on the local level.
“All told we’ve spent over $50,000 in executing Mr. Green’s recommendations and to improve our engagement in Oak Lawn,” Cardinale said. “It’s money well spent to improve the security of our restaurant for guests and employees to restore our reputation.”
Out of Chuck E. Cheese’s 577 restaurants in the United States “only five or ten of them” have problems, he said. Cardinale blamed parents starting the alterations and the local news media for blowing up incidents at the Oak Lawn restaurant.
“We’ve actually been down a few years in any incidents,” Cardinale said. “The incident that took place in August … involved an altercation that started with two individuals who had a problem with each other before they ever came to the restaurant. Unfortunately there is no way to screen for interpersonal conflicts or guarantee that guests won’t get into disputes with current or former family members.”
Trustee Terry Vorderer, a retired Oak Lawn police officer of 30 years, and whose fourth district has endured the brunt of Chuck E. Cheese's donnybrooks, told Cardinale he had not doubt that CEC was trying to address issues at the restaurant.
“I think there was a failure of this board to address these issues before I was elected [in 2013],” Vorderer said. “Your suggestions aren’t much more than what we’ve all tried to do there. I have some reservations of whether we’re going to accomplish these goals for the community and safety of your customers.”
Tr. Alex Olejniczak (Dist. 2) grilled Cardinale about CEC Entertainment’s sudden interest in becoming a member of the chamber and sending its mascot over to visit sick children at Advocate Children’s Hospital, especially since both have been in existence “pretty much all the 30 years” that Chuck E. Cheese’s has been in Oak Lawn.
“I’m extremely concerned about the lack of the sense of urgency to make these changes,” Olejniczak said. “I read through your whole presentation. To me it’s just ‘give us another chance to continue doing the things we said we were going to.’ I believe that enough is enough.”
Mayor Sandra Bury said there was another altercation at the restaurant last week, but it was quickly quieted down.
“That’s what we want to see, but none of these things stop that,” Bury said. “If all of your suggestions and your expert’s suggestions are implemented and the problem continues, where do we go then?”
Trustees voted 3-2 against a measure to begin disciplinary proceedings with an independent hearing officer to determine fines, suspension or revocation of Chuck E. Cheese’s business licence. Instead, Vorderer suggested a committee comprised of residents to review Chuck E. Cheese’s progress over the next six months. The village may enact disciplinary proceedings at any time.
"Personally I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I think it’s fair to give this company a fair shot,” Vorderer said. “But I’m prepared to make this motion after the next incident.”
After the presentation, asked if the restaurants had a security problem as a whole and about the proliferation of Chuck E. Cheese's fight videos on YouTube, Cardinale said he never searched for them.
“I’ve never been on YouTube,” he said. "I’m sure YouTube has all kinds of things on there.”