CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Gunfire led to at least one business closing early Thursday night. Nightlife came to a halt at the Esquire Lounge around 10:00 p.m.
Champaign Police said an investigation is ongoing as of Friday after shots were fired downtown Champaign. A spokesperson said officers responded to the area of Taylor and Market Streets around 10:15 p.m.
Police told WCIA a few shell casings were found at the scene. A man who lives in an apartment nearby sent us Ring doorbell camera footage. You can’t see anything, but six gunshots can be heard.
Shortly after, the bar shut its doors for the night. Paul Higgins co-owns the Esquire Lounge, a popular pub that’s been a part of downtown Champaign since the 1970s. Co-owner Paul Higgins said Thursday night was the first time he’s had to close early due to gun violence.
“If there’s an incident like that, it’s just…It’s time to close up,” he added. “Some things are more important than money.”
Esquire is around the corner from where bullets were fired on Thursday night. Higgins didn’t hear them from inside, but he didn’t need to. He got a text about the news, and immediately closed up shop.
“It was to err on the side of caution and make sure nobody got hurt,” Higgins explained.
Although we have more details now, he says the unknown at that moment required some extra precaution.
Dane Chaussee got off work downtown and walked over to the Esquire to unwind, and found it closed.
“So we decided to have a couple of drinks at Quality,” the hospitality worker from Champaign shared.
But there at the Quality bar, more violent behavior erupted. Chausee shared a video he recorded at the bar last night another block over. You can see a portion of it in the video story above.
“There were a couple of guys that gave off maybe some bad vibes, hanging out off to the side of the patio,” Chausee began. “…and they just started, for whatever reason taunting or harassing.”
He tells me police were called right away.
Higgins wants to see more officers patrolling downtown.
“We’re urging city officials and the mayor to do whatever they can to hire more police staff because I really think that would take care of a lot of the issues,” he added.
Although Chausee said Thursday’s events won’t deter him from enjoying his evenings, he said some of his friends are growing more nervous.
“We love downtown…We’re all a close knit group of hospitality workers, but it’s just jarring to walk out of work and see the squad cars; seeing the crime scene tape, and hearing the gun shots ring out,” he shared.
We heard a similar sentiment from Xander Hazel, Executive Director of the Champaign Center Partnership, an organization that represents over 100 city businesses. Hazel said many owners are afraid gunfire is becoming all too regular. He remained optimistic that businesses, the city and community members can work together on soultions.
Champaign Police stated no one was hurt and there was no property damage following the shots fired Thursday. Officials have not released any suspect information at this time.
This is a developing story. This article will be updated as more information becomes available.