WICKER PARK — An appeals court sided with the city in its fight with Brian Strauss, the former owner of the Wicker Park property once home to the Double Door.
In a March 5 opinion, the First Judicial District of the Appellate Court of Illinois said former 1st Ward Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno had a rational basis to downzone the property at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave. because of the many noise, drug, alcohol and other problems resulting from the concert venue, Crain’s reported.
Strauss initially sought $9.6 million in damages in a 2017 lawsuit that alleged Moreno violated his civil rights when the former Wicker Park politician initiated an inappropriate zoning change — a move that drove away a buyer of the building, Strauss said.
The lawsuit also named the city of Chicago and the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards as defendants. Strauss appealed the case after a Cook County Circuit Court judge dismissed his lawsuit in August 2019.
Strauss alleged Moreno used “aldermanic power” to initiate a zoning change of the building twice. Those measures were first introduced in April 2016 — while the club was in the middle of what would become a long eviction battle that it ultimately lost — and in June 2017.
The amount of $9.6 million Straus wanted was related to an offer of $9.6 million that the lawsuit stated Strauss had from a prospective buyer of the nearly 20,000-square-foot building; the buyer allegedly backed out of the deal after Moreno introduced a zoning change that would only allow a single-family home at the site.
“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 recorded conversation that was broadcast by CBS2 in 2017.
In a 27-page opinion, the court noted Strauss sold the building for $9.1 million in 2018 to CA Ventures, Crain’s reported. The new owner removed the iconic Double Door sign from the property and has since leased the storefront to Yeti, a Texas-based luxury cooler maker.
From 1977-2018, Strauss’ family owned the building, which has a door at 1570-72 N. Milwaukee Ave. and another one at 1551-59 N. Damen Ave., giving the former club its Double Door name. The property includes 11 apartments.
For 18 months, Double Door co-owners Sean Mulroney and Joe Shanahan battled Strauss in court over whether the club had given enough notice that they wanted to renew the venue’s lease. Double Door lost the battle and was evicted by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
The former owners of the Double Door have said they plan to re-open the music venue in Uptown.
Meanwhile, Moreno was released from jail on drunken driving charges in January. Police and prosecutors alleged the 48-year-old drunkenly slammed into eight parked cars in the Gold Coast neighborhood Dec. 27, while he was out on bond for an unrelated fraud case.
The former alderman, voted out of City Council in 2019, also faces charges of insurance fraud and obstruction of justice for falsely reporting his Audi stolen.
Police and prosecutors have alleged Moreno let a woman he was dating get arrested in the luxury car he loaned her after falsely reporting the car was stolen from his garage. The same Audi at issue in the fraud case is the car authorities say Moreno was driving in the Dec. 27 crash.
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