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The Budlong Closes In Lakeview Less Than Five Months After Opening

By Ariel Cheung | September 27, 2016 4:07pm | Updated on September 27, 2016 6:46pm
 A Nashville hot chicken sandwich from The Budlong.
A Nashville hot chicken sandwich from The Budlong.
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LAKEVIEW — It was a short, but delicious run for The Budlong, which closed at 2928 N. Broadway this week after four months.

The hot chicken joint replaced Bunny, the microbakery, which also had a short run before its abrupt shutter.

Owner Jared Leonard confirmed the closure Tuesday afternoon. He also posted on the company's Facebook page that it would reopen soon in Lincoln Park at 1008 W. Armitage Ave. The Budlong also operates a pop-up at Revival Food Hall, 125 S. Clark St.

Leonard originally had his sights set on The Budlong opening in Lincoln Square, and the building at 4169 N. Western Ave. has been under construction for more than a year.

During the wait, he began talks with Bow Truss owner Phil Tadros, who was in the midst of replacing Bunny, the microbakery.

Tadros offered Leonard the space, and they announced the partnership with Tadros in April. The following month, Budlong opened its doors at the Lakeview spot in May.

"Bunny was bleeding like $15,000 a month, so as embarrassing as it was, I had to move on," Tadros told DNAinfo. "Jared said we were going to do Lincoln Square together, and I said I have a space, so we did the Broadway one and split the company in half."

Bunny owner Iliana Regan has not commented publicly on the reason for its closure.

The deterioration of the Leonard-Tadros partnership sprang from troubled relationships with landlords and vendors, as first reported by Eater Chicago.

Leonard blamed the struggles on Tadros. He accused Tadros of failing to deliver on his promises of marketing and online support and said Tadros had no involvement in the Revival Hall project.

"People warned me about him, and I said, 'Let me just try it, how bad can it be?' " Leonard said. "[And it was] as bad as you would think and more."

His company The Budlong Hot Chicken is separate from the Budlong company that originally bore Bunny's name, Leonard said. Tadros, though his Funded Foods company, changed the limited liability company from Bunny the Micro Bakery to Budlong in May, state records show.

Leonard filed to register his limited liability company The Budlong Hot Chicken on Aug. 31. He said their operating agreement never included giving Tadros a share of the ownership.

In July, Crain's Chicago Business posted a scathing account of Tadros' business dealings, detailing lawsuits accusing him of shady practices and cheating investors.

Tadros denied those claims and Leonard's.

In an interview Tuesday, Tadros laid claim to 50 percent of The Budlong, saying he invested about $300,000 in the brand and raised an additional $100,000. He also denied having any trouble working with vendors or landlords.

Tadros said Leonard originally approached him for an investment on the Lincoln Square location and agreed to divvy up the business long before Tadros decided to close Bunny.

Leonard said their partnership extended only to the Lakeview location and, as such, has come to an end.

"He's never invested a dollar in our business; I've never asked him to," Leonard told DNAinfo. "Phil had a space that was open because Bunny left. That's the whole story of it."

Tadros, however, disagreed.

"I own half of Budlong; if a Budlong opens on the moon, I own half of it," Tadros said. "He decided to distance himself, but you can't do that. Nothing changes in my world. I still own it."

Tadros said he didn't know exactly why Leonard decided to move out of the Lakeview location, but figured Leonard no longer wanted to share the successful Budlong. While Leonard tried to buy Tadros out, "he doesn't have any money, so we're just sitting there," Tadros said.

Tadros also said the Crain's article had severe ramifications on his business and personal life in the two months following its publication.

"No investors in any of these company had problems," he said Tuesday. "And now they're creating these problems that don't need to exist."

Leonard is staying optimistic, looking forward to opening in the former Ja' Grill space, which has been vacant since 2014.

The new Budlong will be larger, with a full kitchen and seating for 30 to 40 people, he said. With just cosmetic renovations to take care of, Leonard hopes to open as early as late October.

"This is a little bit of a headache, but it's also a nice, clean, fresh start in a place that I like better," Leonard said. "It's somewhat of a relief."

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