RIVER NORTH — A River North bar has sued its upstairs condominium neighbors, arguing work on the building's windows has killed the restaurant's summer patio and could soon do the same to the entire business.
Blue Frog's Local 22, 22 E. Hubbard St., said it is losing $5,000 to $7,000 per week because of scaffolding that prevents the bar from opening its sidewalk patio, according to a suit filed earlier this month in Cook County circuit court. That figure does not include expected losses from keeping the 72-seat patio closed during summer, the bar's highest-grossing season, Local 22's co-owner John Reed said. The work began last month.
"The patio helps draw attention to our place," he said. "Now it looks like we're closed."
Dave Matthews says the bar owners worry they might go out of business:
According to the suit, the condominium association governing the 50-story tower at 440 N. Wabash Ave. gave the bar less than a week's notice that it would start replacing the building's windows, beginning with the Hubbard Street side where Local 22 runs its patio. Instead of working out a solution with the bar last month — like replacing windows on other sides of the building first — the condo association proceeded with construction in the midst of Bulls and Blackhawks playoff runs.
"They basically shrugged their shoulders and said 'There's nothing we can do,'" Reed said.
Court records show the bar's attempt last month to block construction via court order was denied. Ray Rodriguez, president of the Plaza 440 Private Residences Condominium Association, did not return a message seeking comment.
Attorney Jason Hirsh of Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC, which represents the condo association, said his client was pleased with last month's court action and expects "that the lawsuit will soon be dismissed in its entirety," declining to comment further.
A court date is scheduled for Friday, but Chicago lawyer William J. Delaney, who represents the bar, said no major developments in the case are expected then. Attempts to resolve the issue out of court have been unsuccessful, he added.
Reed said the patio accounts for half the summer business at Local 22, which opened in 2010 but changed its name a year later after racking up $400,000 in debt and appearing on Spike TV's "Bar Rescue." Business has since been better, said Reed, who is suing to stop the window work and collect an unspecified monetary amount from the condo.
Local 22, known for hosting karaoke five nights a week, is in the middle of a 10-year lease with two five-year options.
"Sales kept improving every year, things were looking good, and [we] were actually getting excited about this year," he said.
But not anymore, Reed said. The bar has nearly tapped all of its reserve funds, and Reed said he is considering asking friends for loans to keep the bar afloat through the summer. Local 22 has 34 employees, 12 of them full-time, Reed said. He has been told the scaffolding will be removed in mid-July, but he fears that might be too late for his bar.
"We're gonna make payroll this week, and if we have a halfway decent next two weeks we'll be able to do payroll again," he said. "We just want to get through this."
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