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Double Door Landlord Tells Club To Get Out On First Day Of Trial

By  Alisa Hauser and Joe Ward | May 18, 2016 6:36pm | Updated on May 18, 2016 6:39pm

 Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park.
Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

DOWNTOWN — After months of legal wrangling and settlement talks, the owners of Double Door and its landlord have taken their fight to court as the landlord looks to evict the iconic rock club.

The case began Wednesday, after lawyers for the two parties couldn't come to a settlement on how to move forward in their lease dispute.

At issue is the lease between Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., and its landlord, Brian Strauss. According to Strauss and his attorneys, Double Door's owners failed to give proper notice that they wished to extend their lease, a claim the club's owners deny.

Now, Strauss said he would like to end his business agreement with Double Door, which has been in place since the club opened in 1992. His testimony did not mention why he wants the club to leave.

"Truly, I would just like to make this amicably end," Strauss said during court testimony Wednesday at the Daley Center. "I would like to have the Double Door amicably leave."

The lease ended Oct. 31, and the parties have been in a protracted legal battle since then. A judge has allowed the club to continue hosting shows until the case is settled.

Strauss, whose family has owned the Milwaukee Avenue property since 1977, is also seeking more than $100,000 in damages, mostly from overdue rent and other fees.

Strauss's attorney, William Dorsey, said his client never received a written statement from Double Door explaining it wished to exercise the three-year extension allowed under the existing lease.

The lease stipulates that the leasee must be given written notice of the wish to extend the lease 180 days before it is set to expire.

The owner of Double Door, Sean Mulroney, said after court adjourned for the day that the fight between him and his landlord is not a new one.

"They've said that before," Mulroney said of the landlord claiming he never got a renewal notice.

Mulroney's lawyers did not have a chance to call witnesses during the first day of the trial. His attorney, Cary Schiff, declined comment.

Cook County Circuit Judge Orville Hambright Jr. has presided over the long, drawn-out fight over months of court appearances that has tried his patience. 

The next scheduled court date is June 14.

Since the lease expired, Strauss had refused to accept rent but had been accepting "use and occupancy" payments of about $20,000 monthly from the club. Double Door, which has played host to wide-ranging acts including the Rolling Stones, Rise Against and Sonic Youth, has continued to present acts.

Before Wednesday, Mulroney said "money is the main issue" that was being negotiated, while Dorsey maintained that the matter is pretty straightforward.

At issue from the start has been whether Double Door gave 180 days notice if the club was going to renew its lease, which expired on Oct. 31, 2015. 

Mulroney had said he submitted a single-page letter dated April 24, 2015, stating he was exercising an option to extend his current lease for three years. Mulroney had claimed that the letter asking for a lease extension was in an envelope attached to his May 2015 rent payment.

Brian Strauss, the owner of the building at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., said he never saw that letter. A legal complaint was filed on Nov. 3 asking for a judge to order the eviction.

Mulroney's lawyer has since confirmed that the letter was not sent by certified mail, as required in the lease, making the argument no longer a valid point.

Meanwhile, fans of the iconic music club were rallying around its future since word of the eviction hearings spread. An online petition, "Save the Double Door," has amassed 15,555 signatures.

In response to the petition, Double Door thanked its supporters and assured them during their legal efforts, things would be "business as usual" with hosting various shows and events.

"As we move forward with our efforts to stay in the current Wicker Park location and neighborhood, we encourage everyone to sign and share this petition with all friends of the Double Door to preserve the diverse arts and music community Double Door has fostered!" the club posted on its Facebook page earlier this month.

Dino Kourelis, the petition's founder, plays bass in a band called the Lovehammers with his brother, Bobby, according to Greek Reporter. Kourelis could not be reached for comment to discuss his petition.

Along with paying rent, Mulroney also said that less than two years ago he spent about $80,000 to repair the club's stairs and basement before the opening of Door Number 3, a lower level club for events.

Standing outside of The Revel Room, a bar a few doors south of the Double Door, Phoebe Walters, a 15-year-resident of the area, described the club as "a staple of our neighborhood."

"It would have been very sad if they had left. It is a very recognizable place," Walters said. "There is not one person in Chicago who does not have fond memories of being there."

Walters, 39, recalled seeing Naked Raygun at Double Door a few years before Riot Fest was moved to Humboldt Park.

Related coverage:

Double Door Eviction Case Still In Limbo, 'Pretrial Talks' Continued (May 12)

Double Door Lawyer 'Hopeful' Club Stays As Case Heads to Trial (April 12)

Double Door Eviction Delayed as Court Fight Continues (Jan. 27)

Double Door Eviction Fight: Music to Continue as Case Drags On (Jan. 8)

Double Door Building Sale to Downtown Investors Underway, Records Show (Jan. 5)

Double Door's Landlord Could be Close to Selling Iconic Club's Building (Dec. 17, 2015)

Lawyer in Double Door Eviction Case: 'Time for Them to Go' (Dec. 10, 2015)

Double Door Liquors, Iconic Wicker Park Music Venue, Facing Eviction (Dec. 3, 2015)

Vintage Bass Guitar Missing After Double Door Owner Plays Diabetes Benefit (June 19, 2015)

Friends Rally to Help Double Door Worker Facing $46,000 on Medical Bills (Dec. 5, 2014)

Double Door to open Third Entrance For First Time (July 10, 2013)

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