HYDE PARK — A new Japanese restaurant will have to wait to apply for a liquor license after the City Clerk’s Office denied a petition to overturn a 23-year-long ban on alcohol at the site.
Paperwork did not properly describe a portion the precinct voted dry by residents in 1990, and all 60 signatures in favor of overturning the ban and allowing the new restaurant are considered invalid, according to attorneys in the Clerk’s Office.
The whole process must be redone, said Ralphette Rhodes, an attorney for the Clerk’s Office.
The University of Chicago was attempting to overturn the ban to bring Yusho, a new Japanese restaurant planned by chef Mathias Merges, into the former Third World Cafe at 1301 E. 53rd St.
One neighbor said she was not opposed to alcohol at the restaurant, but to the way the university has tried to make it happen.
“It’s the whole process that they’re using. They’re sneaking around and making decisions for the whole community without consulting the community,” said Robin Kauffman, who lives less than a block from the proposed restaurant and did not sign the petition. “I’m sure I would love Yusho, I love Japanese food, but I feel very threatened.”
Representatives from the university and Vedder Price, which is representing the university, were not immediately available for comment.
Two-thirds of voters need to sign the petition before the ban will be lifted for a small area of the 4th Ward's 1st precinct that used to be part of the dry 31st precinct. The process of getting the signatures and defending any challenges means at least another month before Yusho can apply for a liquor license.
New petitions must be circulated and accepted by the clerk, followed by a 30-day period for opponents to challenge the effort.
Two Hyde Parkers, Tom Panelas and Jane Averill, who both live on 54th Street a block south of the proposed restaurant, challenged the first batch of petitions as inaccurate in their description of the area and alleged signatures were faked.
The challenge was not reviewed by the Clerk’s Office because the petitions were not accepted.