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Is A New Clarke's Coming To Former Melrose Restaurant? Maybe, Owner Says

By Ariel Cheung | August 9, 2017 3:11pm
 A rent sign appeared in the window of Melrose Restaurant Wednesday.
A rent sign appeared in the window of Melrose Restaurant Wednesday.
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Twitter/James P. Chuck

LAKEVIEW — A recently vacated, spacious corner restaurant spot could see a swap of one well-known Lakeview diner for another.

After returning to its Lakeview roots last year, Clarke's might open a new location in the former Melrose Restaurant, 3233 N. Broadway, which closed suddenly last week after 56 years at the corner of Melrose and Broadway.

Speculation that Clarke's would open in the storefront arose when signs declaring the restaurant would be "coming soon" were posted on the windows of Melrose Restaurant on Tuesday.



But Avila played coy Wednesday, saying he wasn't responsible for the signs and thinks "somebody made a joke or something" in posting them.

By Wednesday morning, the signs had been torn down.

Still, Avila said he is, in fact, considering opening a new Clarke's in the space and is in the process of looking at the shuttered restaurant and mulling over his options.

Pepe Avila. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

If he does open up on Broadway, it would be his second Clarke's location, and the Belmont Avenue diner would remain open.

Avila partnered on the original Clarke's locations, including the diner at 928-930 W. Belmont Ave., which opened in 1997. After parting ways with the Clarke's brand several years ago, Avila helped open The Biograph Diner in Lincoln Park in 2015.

The Belmont Cafe opened at the end of June 2015, replacing Clarke's on Belmont near the Belmont "L" station.

The new eatery, however, lasted only a year before accusations of bounced checks to vendors and unpaid employees led to multiple lawsuits and a Department of Labor claim.

The pending lawsuits are being held up in Cook County Circuit Court as officials continue to attempt to contact former owner Nicolas George.

The 24-hour diner — under different ownership than Avila's revival — supposedly "closed for painting" in 2015, but never reopened.

Former Clarke's general manager Nicolas George remodeled and opened The Belmont Cafe, but soon struggled to pay the bills and his employees, according to multiple lawsuits and a claim of unpaid wages filed with the state.

By August, George owed thousands to vendors and staff, they alleged. He quickly sold the business and said he planned to pursue other ventures.

"The guy didn't know what the hell he was doing," Avila said when Clarke's on Belmont reopened. "He didn't make it, so we're coming back."

Clarke's reopened on Belmont in September 2016 with its original menu, 1960s decor and 24-hour grub. While still separate from the other Clarke's locations in Evanston and Rogers Park, Avila worked out a deal with the new owner to use the name at the Belmont location once more, he said.