THE LOOP — The Bottled Blonde will get to stay open as it fights the city’s attempts to pull its liquor license — but only if it can put up a $100,000 bond by Monday.
The River North restaurant and bar, 504 N. Wells St., is currently fighting two city orders to revoke its liquor license, the second one coming Tuesday night. The city had hoped the Bottled Blonde wouldn’t be able to operate with a liquor license as it appeals those decisions, but lawyers for the bar argued that would be a death sentence at a heated Wednesday morning hearing.
Judge Neil Cohen sided with Bottled Blonde, saying it could have a “short” stay — meaning it could keep its liquor license — during the appeal. But Cohen ordered the restaurant to put up a $100,000 cash bond by Monday and warned it could face more conditions in the future, like being forced to close at midnight instead of 2 a.m. and to stop having patrons pay table fees, if it wants to stay open.
“I want this place to stop thinking of itself as a bar and a tavern,” Cohen said.
The Bottled Blonde will also have to turn over financial records to the city by Dec. 15. Those records will show how much of its money is made by serving food vs. how much is made by selling drinks, a key point to the city, which has argued the Bottled Blonde is operating more as a tavern than a restaurant in violation of its agreement with the city.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision today,” the bar’s attorney, Jeannie Gallucci, said in a statement. “The River North is a vibrant part of the downtown Chicago business district and Bottled Blonde looks forward to being a positive addition to this neighborhood for many years to come.”
The city originally tried to yank Bottled Blonde’s liquor license last year after months of hearings where the city argued the restaurant violated its agreement of operation and made more than half of its money from liquor sales. The restaurant was automatically allowed to keep operating as it appealed that decision.
The city brought dozens more charges against the Bottled Blonde on Tuesday night, after another round of hearings, and ordered the revocation of the restaurant’s liquor license. It wasn’t guaranteed the bar would be able to keep its liquor license while appealing this time, leading to Wednesday’s hearing.
Attorneys for the Bottled Blonde argued the city was being unfair, that its findings from the revocation hearings were flawed and that losing its license immediately would cause “immediate” harm. The city countered that the Bottled Blonde had patrons who peed and vomited in the area, disturbing neighbors, and that the restaurant hadn’t done enough to stop this while also primarily working as a bar rather than restaurant.
Cohen grew frustrated at times during the hearing, telling attorneys to stop interrupting him and threatening to make the Bottled Blonde stop charging table fees during a prolonged, heated debate with an attorney for the restaurant.
In the end, Cohen said he believes “in redemption” and hopes the Bottled Blonde will become a good neighbor to residents of the area. He allowed the restaurant to keep its liquor license for at least part of the appeals process, but only if it pays the cash bond by Monday and gives some of its records to the city.
There will be a status hearing for the case on Monday morning.
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