WICKER PARK — A controversial move by 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno to limit what could replace the Double Door music club won the endorsement of a key City Council committee — despite objections from the building's owner and music club's former landlord.
Brian Strauss, owner of the building at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., told the members of the city's Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building standards that he wants to sell or lease the property that his family has owned since 1977, and the city is blocking that effort.
"Do the right thing and walk away from this," Strauss said, adding that he would drop a federal lawsuit he filed over the matter if the committee rejects the change in zoning.
Strauss' lawsuit seeks $9.6 million in damages and alleges Moreno violated Strauss' civil rights when the Wicker Park politician initiated an inappropriate zoning change that drove away a buyer of the building.
The proposed zoning changes would cut options for future tenants, and Strauss alleges they have made buyers and renters reluctant to bid on the property.
"You are not going to get a dime out of this building. It's going to be an empty building with no income for you or your family. End of conversation," Moreno told Strauss in a conversation recorded in a cellphone video in late February that was broadcast by CBS2 in May.
Jim McKay, Strauss' lawyer, said any move by the city to restrict how the property is used would restrict its value by millions of dollars.
Moreno said he was acting well within his power as a member of the Council, who have near complete control over zoning regulations in their wards. Aldermen have nearly unlimited power to stop developments from being built or businesses from opening without their approval.
Moreno said the city's Law Department — as well as his own private attorney — determined Strauss' lawsuit was "incompetent and frivolous."
The zoning approved by the committee and endorsed by the city's Planning and Development Department is more restrictive than the current zoning and gives Moreno more say about what will replace the Double Door.
The building has been closed since Feb. 6 when Double Door was evicted. Work is underway to renovate it for a potential tenant.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th) voted against the measure, which is scheduled to be considered by the full Council Oct. 11.