PILSEN — Five years after opening in a remodeled storefront in historic Thalia Hall, Pilsen’s juice bar Belli’s is being shown the door.
Late last week, Belli’s owner Alex Curatolo received an email alerting her that her lease, which is up in October, would not be renewed.
A Pilsen resident for more than 11 years, Curatolo said the email came as an “unwelcome surprise.” The decision not to renew Belli’s lease was “selfish” and “heartless,” she said.
“We believe it to be a selfish, heartless decision by the owners of Thalia Hall to cut out a small, community-focused business that has worked so hard to keep our doors open and practice good ethics for our neighbors, our team and the many local food producers we support and source from,” Curatolo wrote on Instagram.
In a statement Monday, Thalia Hall co-owner Bruce Finkelman said the 16″ on Center business that operates in Thalia Hall is in need of “extra space” to operate. His team is “still trying to decide what to do with the space,” Finkelman said.
“We have always enjoyed having Belli’s as a tenant of the building and Alex has been a wonderful addition to the property over the years. Together, we signed a five-year lease agreement in 2013 with a full understanding that the term would end in late 2018. Now that we are approaching the end of the lease, we have alerted the owner of Belli’s of our decision not to renew,” Finkelman said in a statement. “This is due to the simple fact that our own business within the building is in need of extra space on premise to operate.”
Finkelman said Thalia Hall owners understand the disappointment associated with these types of decisions, “which are not easy to make.”
“Our hope is that by offering assistance in finding a new space for the Belli’s team with several months of advanced notice, we can help her concept continue to thrive in a new location. We have also relayed that we would be happy to speak to anyone from her company seeking employment opportunities at the end of the lease,” Finkelman wrote. “We are grateful for our relationship with Belli’s and wish Alex nothing but continued success.”
Since opening in October 2013, Curatolo said the business has been operating on a year-to-year lease or two-year leases.
Now, instead of participating in the summer community programs like Chicago Youth Programs, Curatolo said she will have to spend some of her 12-hour days to find a new location for the business.
Curatolo anticipates a move would impact customers who have been faithful to her at the Thalia Hall location. Belli’s, which sells locally grown produce, fresh juices, smoothies, jams and honey, was the second shop to move into the remodeled Thalia Hall space in 2013.
Over the weekend, Curatolo broke the news of the impending move to customers on social media.
“We are still in full operation all summer and will need to save every nickel and dime to make up for moving and associated costs including support and paid leave for Belli’s team to survive,” Curatolo said in the post.
Modern Cooperative, a vintage furniture and decor shop that operated out of a Thalia Hall storefront for five years, closed its 18th Street location in April 2017. At the time, co-owner Tiffany Paige blamed rent hikes and a decrease in sales for the shop’s closure.
In 2013, owners Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden worked to restore the Thalia Hall building into a theater and mixed-use development. The re-opened venue hosted its first show in May 2014.
Opened by John Dusek in 1892 as one of the most ornate theaters of its time, Thalia Hall’s theater had been closed to the public since the 1960s. The theater was designated an official landmark in the 1980s.