CHICAGO — The future of an iconic Bucktown bar now sits in the hands of a court-appointed administrator, a judge decided Friday.
Cook County Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Coghlan said she's tired of waiting for the manager of Marie's Rip Tide Lounge to come up with money she owes the children of the bar’s late owner, Marie Wuczynski, who died last year and left her estate to the bar's manager.
Citing seven other visits to her bench dating back to Oct. 3, Coghlan called the situation "completely ridiculous," and advised, "It's best for everyone involved that a special administrator can be put into place to independently administer the sale of the property."
Tina Congenie, the bar’s manager, contends she is the bar’s legitimate owner, after Wuczynski willed her estate to Congenie upon her death in 2011. But Wuczynski’s three children say Congenie owes them $120,000 before she can take control of the bar. And a construction company located next to the bar claims dibs on the property, citing an agreement it made with Wuczynski in 2006.
Coghlan appointed Peter Coorlas to "assist in the process of resolving this real estate issue" and explained that the "the purpose of the administrator will be to resolve any and all issues related to the sale of the property and all issues pertaining to the real estate."
Coorlas will be tasked with evaluating all valid real estate offers for the real estate once belonging to Wuczynski, and will report back at the next status hearing Feb. 6.
Before Coorlas was appointed, Sean Mulroney, who is handling the bar/business side of the estate for Congenie, said there were several offers to help Congenie take control of the bar, including a $1 million offer from an unnamed buyer. Mulroney shared a faxed contract offering $1 million for the bar that was from a prominent nightclub owner.
But Coghlan questioned the merits of an unsigned contract.
"If there is a legitimate offer for $1 million it would be in best interest of the estate for the third party to follow up on that," she added.
There is at least one offer in earnest on the table: Bulley & Andrews, the construction firm, is offering $550,000 for the property. In order to execute the firm’s first right of refusal, there needs to be a valid and signed offer from another party, the firm's lawyer, Keith Edeus, told Coghlan. After the hearing Edeus was unable to comment on what his client's intentions are for the property.
In an October 3 judgment, Congenie was ordered to pay $120,000 to Wuczynski’s three heirs. While Congenie had said she owed the family $140,000, Philip Bernstein, a lawyer for Wuczynski’s children, said that the interest is likely between $2,000 and $3,000.
Unable to come up with the money, the bar hosted a fundraiser Thursday night, but raised just $210 and $1,800 in beer sales, Congenie said.
Even so, Congenie described the benefit as packed with fans, which were "begging me not to close it, saying it's an institution. It was very comforting."
Bernstein said he was pleased with the ruling because "now I think assets will be liquidated to payoff the judgment."
Joe La Zara, whose firm is handling the estate side of the case for Congenie, told DNAinfo.com Chicago Wednesday that there had been enough liquid assets in Wuczynski's estate after her death to pay the three heirs, though prior to the heirs challenging the will, his client had spent that money rehabilitating the building.
After the hearing, Mulroney said that there are four interested buyers for the bar.
Two of the offers would have total control of the bar and leave Congenie out of the operations and the other two offers are to work in partnership with Congenie, Mulroney said.
Congenie told DNAinfo that she would prefer to continue being part of the bar.
"Whatever's gonna happen will happen. I hope it will work out for the best," Congenie said.