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Matthias Merges' Yusho Restaurant Cleared to Open after Lawsuit Dropped

By Sam Cholke | January 6, 2014 10:01am

HYDE PARK — Neighbors have dropped a lawsuit attempting to uphold a liquor ban on 53rd Street, clearing the way for work to begin on chef Matthias MergesYusho restaurant.

“We were waiting for the final ruling before beginning construction,” said Calmetta Coleman, a spokeswoman for the University of Chicago.

Yusho is expected to open in the late summer, Coleman said.

The university pushed to overturn the ban so the restaurant it courted for the former Third World Cafe storefront at 1301 E. 53rd St. could serve alcohol.

To overturn the ban, the university needed to collect signatures from two-thirds of voters in the affected area approving the change. The university barely met the required number of signatures in April, and by August neighbors sued claiming many signatures were invalid.

On Dec. 17 as a trial date approached, neighbors backed down from a five-month battle to uphold a 23-year alcohol ban.

According to the City Clerk, alcohol sales are now legal again on the block and individuals can apply for a liquor license.

Neighbors opposed to the measure said they sued because it was an inappropriate place for liquor sales, the process for overturning the ban was not done correctly and the university was pursuing real estate development too aggressively on 53rd Street.

Tom Panelas, the lead complainant in the suit, declined to comment, and others involved in the suit were not immediately available to comment.

“It really came down to how many resources do we want to put into this fight,” said Abraham Matthew, the lawyer for the neighbors. “Trials are probably the most expensive things in all of the practice of law.”

Matthew said his clients still feel their challenge was valid and the university did not follow proper procedure for overturning a liquor ban.

Neighbors can still appeal the case, but because the case was dismissed with prejudice they cannot refile the suit.

Matthew said the suit's chances were not great if it had gone to trial and the university hired one of the top election law lawyers in the city to argue its case, Mike Kasper.

“He’s a very intelligent guy and he’s probably one of the most intelligent guys ever to do election law,” Matthew said of Kasper, who was also his instructor on election law in law school. “His arguments are clean and straight and very efficient.”

With the lawsuit dismissed, Merges is now cleared to start construction on Yusho, which is planned as a Japanese street-food-style restaurant.

Merges was unavailable for comment, but the Facebook page for Merges' other Hyde Park restaurant, A10, said, “We can't wait! Midday steam buns are just a few months away, thank goodness!”