PILSEN — City officials are heading to court to try to block an arcade bar from opening in Pilsen, escalating a legal battle that has raged on for months.
Owners of Headquarters Beercade, an arcade bar in River North, have had their sights set on expanding to 917 W. 18th St. But the city’s department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protections and Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) have sided with neighbors who say Pilsen doesn’t need another rowdy bar in the area.
After the city and the alderman turned down Headquarters’ liquor license application, arcade owners appealed to the Illinois Liquor License Commission, which sided with the bar and granted it a conditional license last month.
Now, the city’s law department is fighting that decision and plan to file an appeal with the Cook County Circuit Court in December.
In rejecting the arcade, Sigcho-Lopez said the neighborhood is already dealing with traffic congestion and parking shortages. He said the business, which would sit a few blocks from another bar, would have “deleterious effect” on the quality of life standards of nearby residents.
Residents have expressed frustrations about another nearby bar where patrons are noisy, urinate on homes and leave behind garbage, Sigcho-Lopez said. They fear another bar in the area would exacerbate the problem, he said.
Headquarters Beercade co-owners Chireal Jordan and Brian Galati filed for a liquor license for the Pilsen venue in October 2019. Following the application, the duo announced preliminary plans for the 4,000-square-foot arcade bar in Eater and aimed to open in 2020.
‘Imagine having a bar next to your house‘
Longtime Pilsen resident Carlos Colon, whose front door is across the alley from the proposed bar’s front door, said he doesn’t want to see more intoxicated patrons at his doorstep, especially with young grandchildren living inside the home.
For years, Colon, 58, said he’s had to deal with drunk people leaving Simone’s, 960 W. 18th St., and from Color Cocktail Factory, which is housed in the same building as the proposed bar, he said. Color Cocktail Factory offers painting and other art classes and allows guests to bring their own alcoholic beverages.
Colon and other residents said bar-goers leave garbage, empty beer cans, liquor bottles and urinate on the side of his home. On several occasions, he’s had to tell people arguing or drinking near his front door to get away late in the night.
“Imagine having a bar next to your house,” Colon said in Spanish.
Pilsen resident Rocio, who declined to provide her last name, said sometimes people leaving area bars get “rowdy.” The 29-year-old lives between Simone’s and the proposed Headquarters location.
“To have another place that would bring more people would be overwhelming,” she said.
In addition to more inebriated patrons, she said a new bar would bring more traffic and parking problems.
“Headquarters is popular in River North,” Rocio said. “Thinking about that coming this way would be a nuisance and bring more rowdiness to the area.”
“It’s great to see businesses, but then you have people coming in from outside the neighborhood being disrespectful to people that live in the area,” she said.
Neighbor Annette Sandrzyk, 21, lives one block south of the proposed arcade bar. She said she thought the idea of an arcade bar was “pretty cool.”
Beercade not backing down
More than 170 residents signed letters opposing the beercade, prompting the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and Ald. Sigcho-Lopez to deny the application in December of last year.
The city issued a final denial of the conditional liquor license application in February based on the negative impact the venue would have on neighbors, said Isaac Reichman, a spokesman with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
But last month, the License Appeal Commission — which consists of three members appointed by Gov. JB Pritzker and Mayor Lori Lightfoot — unanimously reversed the city’s decision. In the ruling, the commission said the city “failed to prove by a preponderance of evidence” that granting the license would cause a deleterious impact on neighbors.
In the ruling, the commissioners said that two residents, who testified and live next to the proposed bar, including Colon, were “not credible.”
By contrast, the License Appeal Commission said co-owner Jordan’s testimony was “credible since he spent eight years in the 18th District addressing deleterious impact concerns on a daily basis,” referring to his ownership of the River North beercade and other bars and restaurants.
The city argued the commission “failed to apply the correct standard of deleterious impact” and ignored photographic evidence and testimonies from five nearby homeowners and Pilsen residents.
In an email, Kathleen Fieweger, a spokeswoman for the city’s law department, said the city plans to file an action with the Cook County Circuit Court by Dec. 9.
“While [Headquarters Beercade] Pilsen has continued to remain interested in resolving this matter, it expects that a Circuit Court Judge will have to make a ruling in this matter,” Galati said in a statement. “HQ Pilsen prefers a dialogue with the City and the Alderman rather than litigation but that decision is in the hands of the City.”
While an appeal is outstanding, city officials said no liquor license will be issued. Headquarters Beercade would still need a zoning change to move forward with the proposed bar, officials said.
Even as the process drags on, Sigcho-Lopez said he hopes the ultimate decision respects the concerns of nearby residents.
Lifelong Pilsen residents John and Nancy Morales hope so, too.
The couple, who lives on 18th Place —the block behind the proposed arcade bar, said they hope the city is successful in the appeal. The area already has unresolved problems with permit parking on the block.
“This is a quiet neighborhood,” Nancy Morales said. “They are going to bring more problems.”
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