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Ravenswood’s Empirical Brewery Evicted Because Of Thousands In Unpaid Rent, Court Records Show

Empirical's landlord terminated the lease in May after brewery owners failed to pay more than $16,000 in rent. Authorities evicted the company from its Malt Row home Friday.

Empirical Brewery, 1801 W. Foster Ave., on Oct. 24, 2022.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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RAVENSWOOD — Empirical Brewery was booted from its building and abruptly shut down over the weekend following a months-long legal battle in which the landlord said the company did not pay its rent for several months this year, according to court records.

Empirical shut down Sunday after seven years in business at 1801 W. Foster Ave. on Ravenswood’s Malt Row.

The rent dispute dates to the beginning of the year, according to Cook County court records.

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Hayes Properties, which owners the Foster Avenue building, served Empirical owner Bill Hurley with a five-day notice in May for the brewery to pay just over $16,496 in unpaid rent, or else the lease would be terminated, court documents show.

The landlord then moved to evict Empirical in June, court records show. In that filing, attorneys said the brewery owners owed back rent from Jan. 1 through May 19.

Cook County Judge Theresa M. Smith Conyers granted the eviction request in August, giving Empirical until Sept. 6 to move out of the Foster Avenue building.

The landlord went back to court Sept. 8, saying the brewery was still operating in the space. The landlord asked the court to enforce the eviction, and order Empirical to pay back rent, rent for every month they continued to occupy the building and attorneys fees. In all, Empirical owed about $30,600, court records show.

Smith Conyers granted the order for the eviction and the back rent. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office received the eviction notice Sept. 22 and enforced it Friday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shereen Mohammad said.

Hurley and a representative from Hayes Properties Inc. did not respond to requests for comment.

Fans of the brewery and neighbors were caught by surprise when its owners abruptly announced Friday on social media Sunday would be Empirical’s last day in business.

“Last call for Empirical…,” the brewery posted on social media. “Unfortunately the Brewery will be closing after this weekend. “We will explain more soon, but for now we just want to say thanks for all the love and cheers to one more weekend! 🍻💛🍻 ”

Fans flocked to the taproom throughout the weekend to enjoy a last few pints.

Green string lights, stacks of kegs and other brewery equipment could still be seen inside the building Monday. The taproom still had plastic cups and glasses of leftover beer on tables and some of the fall leaves were scattered near the inside of the taproom’s entrance.

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
Empirical Brewery’s taproom, 1801 W. Foster Ave., on Oct. 24, 2022.

Empirical co-founders Hurley and Sumit Mehta started brewing beers together in 2009 and signed a lease in 2013 to open a brewery and taproom at the large brick industrial building on Foster Avenue.

The taproom opened in 2015 thanks to a successful an Indiegogo fundraising campaign, and has been a staple of the neighborhood’s “Malt Row.

The taproom featured a 32-foot-long bar and had a family and dog-friendly atmosphere. Game nights were common and the brewery also had a colony of feral cats working to keep the building rodent-free.

Several of the brewery’s beers also became popular enough for the owners to start bottling and distributing around the area.

Empirical closure comes less than two months since another neighborhood brewery, Urban Brew Labs, closed its doors. The brewery and taproom at 5121 N. Ravenswood Ave. closed Sept. 11. Owner James Moriarty said they “just didn’t have enough traction” with beer sales via distribution.

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