CITY HALL — The Bottled Blonde has become a "dangerous" spot for River North, neighbors of the controversial restaurant said after a hearing with the city Tuesday.
An attorney for the pizzeria — which neighbors say is actually a nightclub — appeared at a short hearing Tuesday, the first as the city decides whether to revoke the restaurant's liquor license. The hearing itself lasted about one minute, but neighbors came to show their support for a crackdown on the Bottled Blonde, 504 N. Wells St.
The restaurant has faced substantial criticism since its new, lengthy dress code went viral last week — but neighbors have been working for years to get the city to shut down the restaurant or pull its liquor license. The dress code ended up shining a light on the neighbors' plight, one neighbor said.
The neighbors — some of them wearing items banned under the Bottled Blonde's controversial dress code — said they've spoken with the restaurant and city for years about feeling unsafe around its patrons. The area is heavily residential and the Bottled Blonde, billing itself as a restaurant, came in and "defiled" the neighborhood, said neighbor Miriam Waltz.
"Ever since Bottled Blonde moved into the neighborhood, they have done everything ... to violate their operating agreement," Waltz said. "The neighborhood's been dangerous. Drunken patrons leave. There's been fighting in the street. There's been vomiting, urination in our alley.
"I was actually accosted in the lobby entrance of our building at one point by patrons of Bottled Blonde that were drunk. It's really created a dangerous situation for us."
The Bottled Blonde has been "dangerous," neighbor says. Calls hearing their "last hope." pic.twitter.com/X2RoLO6yrE— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) June 6, 2017
The neighbors expect the Bottled Blonde's hearing process to take a long time, one said, but they plan to show up to as many meetings as they can. They've sent videos, photos and other documents to the city, looking to prove the Bottled Blonde is really a club and not a restaurant as it says.
The city alleges the Bottled Blonde sold alcohol as its primary activity but didn't have a tavern license, failed to keep patrons trying to get into the restaurant in a single line of no more than 25 people, and didn't monitor its exterior to reduce noise, littering and public intoxication, among other things.
If those charges are sustained, the Bottled Blonde could be fined or have its licenses suspended or revoked, a city spokesman said.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said the Bottled Blonde has "generated hundred of complaints" from people in the area since it opened, and it's been investigated by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection several times.
"Bottled Blonde has not been a responsible restaurant operator in River North since the day they opened and remains a chronic source of quality-of-life complaints from my constituents," Reilly said.
The complaints led to the city working out a new plan of operation with the Bottled Blonde in September after community hearings. The plan emphasized the Bottled Blonde would operate as a restaurant — not a tavern — and its "primary business activity [would] be the sale and service of food."
The plan called on the Bottled Blonde to stop working with "guest" DJs, monitor its exterior to reduce noise and "obtrusive customer behavior" and said it couldn't operate as a "dance club or venue," among other things.
But the restaurant has not followed that plan, said Anne, who lives around the corner from the Bottled Blonde. Anne said she and others have to regularly call police on the Bottled Blonde to complain there are too many people, it's too loud or people are spilling into the alleys to vomit, urinate, drink and do drugs.
The neighbors sent videos to the city, saying they show the Bottled Blonde has continued to act more like a club.
And last week, the restaurant came under fire after its new dress code went viral online. The lengthy dress code bans patrons from wearing "obnoxious" prints, "odd-colored" pants, Jordans, men's jewelry and other items.
People flooded Bottled Blonde's social media pages, leaving it poor Yelp reviews and taking to Facebook and Instagram to slam the policy and restaurant. Many said the policy was "racist" and not fairly applied, pointing to photos from the restaurant's Facebook that show servers in lingerie or leotards and patrons — many, though not all, white — wearing items that are supposedly banned in the dress code.
One poster described the rules as "the new Jim Crow."
Representatives of the Bottled Blonde have not responded to repeated requests for comment, and a lawyer said he could not comment after Tuesday's hearing. The restaurant removed posts criticizing its dress code policy from Facebook.
The full dress code:
• Bottled Blonde will maintain a classy atmosphere and reserves the right to refuse service to anyone. A high standard of dress is required at all times. Dress code is on a case-by-case basis, and is at the sole discretion of the Door Staff. In all instances, the Door Staff's decision is final. If denied entry, changing your appearance will not change the decision. The following lists are guidelines and are subject to change at any time without notice.
• No bad attitude or behavior
• No excessively baggie, sagging, ripped, dirty, frayed, overly flashy or bright clothing
• No matching colors of the shoes, hat and/or shirt
• No Hawaiian, tie dye, floral, skull prints or anything else obnoxious
• No gang attire (leather cuts, colors or insignia) and no camouflage
• No embellishments or statement jackets, shirts, beanies or hats
• No rude, vulgar or offensive clothing
• No overly large purses or bags. Backpacks must be coat checked if available
• No skateboards, hoverboards or animals
• No plain white tees, long tees, denim, flannel (not even around one's waist) or zippers on shirts
• No cut-off shirts, deep V-necks, undershirts or mesh shirts. Tank tops before 6 p.m. only
• No sports jerseys (except during games and of the appropriate team)
• No Tapout, Ed Hardy, Affliction or MMA brands
• No shearling/fur, leather, jean jackets, short-sleeve hoodies or overly long hoodies
• No puffer/quilted jackets or vests and no novelty sweaters
• No hoodies underneath shirts or jackets
• No overalls, cargo, bleached/stone/acid-washed, odd-colored or leather pants
• No joggers, manpris, drop crotch pants or pants with numerous zippers
• No athletic wear, like Under Armour, sweats, gym shoes and etc.
• No compression pants underneath shorts or rolled-up jeans
• No jean shorts, and other shorts must be no longer than 1 inch past your knees
• No Jordans, Nike Air Max or Air Force [shoes]
• No high tops, high socks or athletic sneakers (Chucks and Vans are allowed)
• Shoes are required at all times (no sandals after 8 p.m.)
• Dress boots must be fully laced up (no work boots)
• Hats must be worn at all times (no stickers or tags)
• No brimless headgear
• No male jewelry (chains are not allowed in the establishment at all)
• No visible tattoos on neck, face or hands
Read the charges: