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Bottled Blonde Could Be Forced To Close After Citation For Overcrowding, Judge Says

A fire inspector cited the River North spot for overcrowding on New Year's Eve, but the restaurant's attorneys say it wasn't overcrowded.

Outside the Bottled Blonde in River North.
David Matthews/DNAinfo
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THE LOOP — The Bottled Blonde could soon be out of business if it’s determined the restaurant was overcrowded on New Year’s Eve, a judge said at a hearing Tuesday.

The River North restaurant and bar, 504 N. Wells St., is currently fighting attempts by the city to take away its liquor license. Judge Neil Cohen had previously warned the Bottled Blonde it could keep its license during its appeal but would need to operate on “a short leash” after being ordered to pay a $100,000 bond.

After the “short leash” warning, a fire inspector said Bottled Blonde was overcrowded with 96 more people than its capacity would allow on New Year’s Eve.

A hearing will now be held to determine if the restaurant was overcrowded. If it did have too many people, Cohen said Tuesday he’ll consider revoking the Bottled Blonde’s license and putting it out of business.

If the Bottled Blonde wasn’t overcrowded or there were “mitigating circumstances,” Cohen will keep an open mind, he said.

“I put my name on the line by granting your request for a stay …,” Cohen told the Bottled Blonde’s attorneys during the Tuesday hearing, which grew heated at times. “The Blonde was on exact, precise notice from this court that they were to conduct themselves” in a way that was compliant with the law.

It will be at least a few weeks until that hearing is held and a decision is made, though: The Bottled Blonde’s attorneys want to first depose the fire inspector who said the River North spot was overcrowded.

The Bottled Blonde has faced controversy for years. Neighbors complained its patrons were loud and vomited and peed in public, among other things.

Bottled Blonde and the city formed an agreement of operation, but the city later alleged the restaurant violated that agreement. That led to the city trying to revoke the Bottled Blonde’s liquor license twice during months of hearings, with city attorneys arguing the restaurant was operating more as a bar or club than an eatery.

The restaurant also received widespread backlash after its lengthy dress code was posted online and condemned as racist by some.

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