WICKER PARK — The neon Double Door sign was around long before the iconic Wicker Park music club opened in 1994.
"It's good old rare stuff," said Tom Brickler, owner of Bucktown's Neon Shop Fishtail, which repairs and restores neon signs.
Brickler said the 16-foot-tall sign, made of red and white porcelain with neon lettering on both sides, dates to the 1950s.
Prior to Double Door opening in June 1994, the corner spot at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., just a few feet south of the Damen, Milwaukee and North avenues intersection, was home to a unique hybrid: Double Door Liquors and a country and western bar, Main Street Tavern.
"Country in the front and liquor in the back," was how Brickler — who was hired in the early 1980s to maintain the sign's neon lettering — described the layout.
Main Street Tavern's clientele were part of "a crazy hillbilly crowd," who were not happy about the "corporate" encroachment of the Double Door music club, which adopted the name of the liquor store, Brickler recalled.
Double Door co-owner Sean Mulroney told the Wicker Park Insider's Guide that back in 1994, the Main Street Tavern owners would put glue in the locks to prevent the new tenants from getting inside.
Flash forward 22 years and now it's Double Door's turn to be the tenant fighting to stay.
William Dorsey, a lawyer for the building's owner Brain Strauss, who's been trying the past nine months to evict the club, said that the neon sign stays with the building.
"It's what is known legally as a fixture," Dorsey said.
Mulroney did not respond to inquiries about Double Door's plans for the sign, or claims, if any, to it.
A copy of a purchase and sale agreement from a now failed deal with Speedwagon Properties to buy the Double Door building defined the sale as including all of the building's "fixtures."
The club, which was ordered earlier this month to vacate the premises, is scheduled to appear before a Cook County judge next week to discuss how long they will stay on the property.
Brickler said "It's difficult to put a value on a liquor sign like [Double Door's]."
"That is the true signage of what's left in America. It defines the 1950s. A lot of sign companies replaced porcelain signs with florescent backlit lights because they were brighter and servicing was easier," Brickler said.
Brian A. Bernardoni, local government affairs director of the Chicagoland Association of Realtors, said that the question of who owns a sign, particularly one that was in existence before a tenant was, is one that "can't possibly be guessed on."
"The most professional thing I can tell you is that it is more than likely a litigable question. We don't know what the eviction terms are. If Double Door had use of the sign in the lease, it does not mean they have ownership of the sign. That is something that would have to be determined by a judge," Bernardoni said.
A man at the main corner, with Double Door sign in the background, 1990. [Ron Seymour Photography]
Two children at the corner, 1990, four years before Double Door opened. [Ron Seymour Photography]
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