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Double Door Eviction Trial Ends, Judge Could Rule By Monday

By Alisa Hauser | June 14, 2016 6:34pm
 Double door sign at night.
Double door sign at night.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

DALEY CENTER — Whether the music will continue to go on at iconic club Double Door is a question that a Cook County judge could answer Monday.

After a nearly three-hour long trial on Tuesday, Judge Orville Hambright Jr. declared the trial portion of the eviction case over. 

Hambright asked for the lawyers representing Double Door and landlord Brian Strauss to come back to the court room on June 20 for closing arguments.

"Be prepared for closing arguments. I may render a decision on Monday. Trial is done," Hambright said.

After months of legal wrangling and settlement talks, the trial started May 18. 

The evidence presented Tuesday amounted to details that Hambright determined to be mostly insignificant to the core issue of the case: whether or not Double Door's owner, Sean Mulroney, gave sufficient notice of his intention to renew his lease.

"You've talked about the electricity bill, the water bill. ... If you don't feel like I've given this enough attention, you can appeal to the appellate court. Bottom line, I'm going to rule one way or the other, your way or his," Hambright told Cary Schiff, a lawyer for Mulroney.

Schiff had argued for more time.

"It's been going on a long time. Does another week make a difference?" Schiff asked Hambright, who replied, "Yeah, it does. You've had your day in court."

Earlier in the proceedings, Hambright told both sides, "All you are doing is postponing the inevitable."

"None of us here have been privy to the conversations between [Sean] Mulroney and [Brian] Strauss but it's been put into my lap to make a decision and I've got to make one because you all couldn't work it out," Hambright said.

Among the issues discussed at length and through cross examination was the nature of Strauss and Mulroney's landlord-to-tenant relationship, which was mainly "formal" by Strauss' account and both informal and formal by Mulroney's estimation.

New evidence introduced included text message screenshots provided by Schiff to show that Mulroney had texted Strauss about meeting up to discuss a lease renewal in the week leading up to when the two-year lease expired on Oct. 31, 2015.

Strauss' lawyers are requesting that they be allowed to regain possession of the ground floor and basement of the approximately 17,000-square-foot building at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.

At issue from the start has been Double Door's need to give 180 days notice if it was going to renew its lease, which had an option for a three-year renewal.

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 1994.

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

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.

William Dorsey, a lawyer for Strauss, previously said that there was no letter mailed by certified mail and no evidence that the letter was received. 

On Tuesday, Mulroney said that he left a copy of a letter at the club, a statement that Dorsey previously had said was proof that Mulroney did not comply with his lease, which states that notice for a lease renewal must be sent through certified mail.

Mulroney spent $83,000 on renovations to the club in 2013, an investment that he said he would not have made if he was not going to renew the lease.

When asked by Schiff what the impact would be if Double Door would have to move if the option to renew the lease was not granted, Mulroney cited a negative financial impact due to the fact that the club's shows are currently booked six months in advance, through the end of December.

"We have 35 employees. We are an economic driver. Other bars [near the club] staff based around our shows. If [the option to renew lease] is not honored, it puts all those other things in jeopardy," Mulroney said.

Currently, the club's first floor and basement are listed for rent, according to a commercial real estate listing, which is asking $90 per square foot for the 5,000-square-foot first floor, and $20 per-square-foot for the 5,000-square-foot basement.

That would put the asking monthly rent for the first floor at $37,500 and the basement rent at $8,333.

The rental listings come after an offer from Speedwagon Properties to buy the mixed-use, 113-year-old building that houses Double Door and 11 upstairs apartments fell through. The purchase agreement was struck on Dec. 23, 2015, and was canceled on Jan. 26, county records show.

In January, Joe Shanahan, a minority owner in the club, told Tribune rock critic Greg Kot, "We've done the Rolling Stones, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Flaming Lips, Greg Dulli and so many important artists there. It supports the community. We want to stay."

Related coverage:

Double Door Should Get Zoning Change, Alderman Says, But It's Not Clear Why (June 2)

Double Door Landlord Tells Club to Get Out on First Day of Trial (May 18)

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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