Legendary Dive Bar with Long Roots in Bucktown in Danger of Closing
BUCKTOWN — If Marie's Rip Tide Lounge is going to stay open for business, it's going to have to overcome a few big hurdles.
First, its manager, Tina Congenie, has to pay $140,000 to the heirs of the bar's deceased owner, Marie Wuczynski. Wuczynski willed her estate to Congenie, the bar's longtime manager.
Also complicating matters is a construction firm that occupies a neighboring lot that is claiming dibs to the property, citing an agreement it made with Wuczynski in 2006, in which Bulley & Andrews paid her $5,000 for the first right of refusal to the property.
Congenie has a status hearing in court Friday about a $120,000 settlement she said she'd agreed to pay to Wuczynski's three biological children after they challenged the validity of their mother's will. Over time, with interest, that figure has grown to $140,000.
According to Joe La Zara, a lawyer representing Congenie in the matter of Wuczynski's estate, Wuczynski's three biological children are "pushing for a court-appointed administrator" because "the jist of it is, they feel they should have been paid already." But La Zara says she needs more time to raise the money.
Congenie has another lawyer handling issues related to the bar and its liquor sales.
Congenie can't be transferred full ownership of Wuczynski's assets, including the bar, until she pays the bar owner's three biological children, said La Zara.
"All I want to do is keep the doors and the bar open for all the customers, and keep my family going," Congenie said.
A day-long event Thursday, "Save the Bar," continues until 2 a.m. Friday in hopes of raising enough funds to "stall the decision," Congenie said.
At 6 p.m., the event was well underway, but far from packed, a bartender said.
“We started kind of slow. But people are trickling in now and we expect it to pick up,” said bartender Neil Semar.
La Zara said that Friday's status hearing will determine "if we have more time or if we don't have more time" to pay the $140,000.
According to La Zara, who said the hearings have been going on for "several months," the estate can't be transferred to Congenie individually "until payment is made to the biological children."
The reason for the late notice and scramble for cash is because as early as one week ago, Congenie thought that she had a new business partner. But, according to Congenie, he "up and left to Colorado."
Congenie said that she would have had the money to pay the adult children $40,000 each as mutually agreed upon, if not for the agreement made with Bulley & Andrews, which she learned about when she tried to take a loan out on the building.
La Zara referred to the right of first refusal as "a separate issue."
A spokesman for Bulley & Andrews, at 1755 W. Armitage Ave., declined to comment about the right of refusal, but said, "Marie [Wuczynski] knew for quite some time we were interested in buying the property."
Congenie said she hopes to raise enough funds Thursday to pay the $140,000 or attract "a partner that wants to go 50-50" in owning the bar.
Local musician and Riptide bartender John Kimler will perform at the benefit Thursday.
Shannon Bandur, 27, a bartender at Lincoln Park's Perennial Virant, stopped by Wednesday after her shift and was one of many dozens of revelers packing the popular dive and reminiscing.
"Everyone is so crushed," Bandur said, referring to the news of a possible closure.
"I can't imagine waking up and not seeing a bar here," Congenie said.