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Clip: Double Door says landlords want club out

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  • Carl Zimring
    Double Door says landlords want club out June 3, 2005 BY JIM DEROGATIS Pop Music Critic After
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2005
      <http://www.suntimes.com/output/derogatis/cst-nws-door03.html>

      Double Door says landlords want club out

      June 3, 2005

      BY JIM DEROGATIS Pop Music Critic

      After months of downplaying the conflict, operators of Chicago's renowned
      Double Door rock club said yesterday that landlords are trying to evict
      them in favor of a national retail chain that might pay more than quadruple
      the rent.

      Claiming that the landlords have declared a "war on culture," operators of
      the Wicker Park club said that, "Chicago's pre-eminent small music venue
      will be fighting for its very existence" Thursday in Cook County Court.

      Chancery Judge Richard Billik is set to hear the case, which centers on a
      dispute over whether Double Door operators Sean Mulroney, Andrew Barrett
      and Joe Shanahan gave the required one-year notice to landlords Harry and
      Brian Strauss that they intended to exercise an option to renew their lease
      on the landmark 500-capacity venue.

      Since June 1994, Double Door has hosted historic performances by the
      Smashing Pumpkins, the Rolling Stones and hundreds of other notable acts.
      When it opened in what had been a biker bar at the intersection of Damen,
      Milwaukee and North avenues, Wicker Park was a neighborhood in transition,
      with lingering traces of the seediness portrayed in Nelson Algren's famous
      novel, The Man with the Golden Arm.

      Thanks to the forces of gentrification, Wicker Park is now the neighborhood
      of the golden rents.

      Mulroney, who is also an attorney, said the fight isn't really about
      whether club operators gave legal notice to renew their lease, but about
      the landlords' desire to raise the rent for the space from $9 to $38 per
      square foot, or from approximately $45,000 a month to $190,000 -- a price
      that would make operating the club impossible.

      Howard Golden, the landlords' attorney, would not talk about the specific
      increase his clients want. But he maintained that the current rent is far
      below market value, as confirmed by an appraiser hired by the family.

      'This isn't personal'

      The landlords were rumored to have been talking to the Banana Republic
      clothing chain about opening a store at the site. Golden denied that the
      Strauss family has a specific tenant in mind. "There are people who are
      interested in that location," he said.

      "This isn't personal, and it's not like my clients don't like their music,"
      Golden added. "It's just about getting a reasonable rent."

      Mulroney called the landlords "disingenuous" and said negotiations broke
      down after Double Door offered to increase its rent to $24 per square foot.

      Operators fear Lounge Ax fate

      Rumors of the dispute have been swirling for months, but Mulroney said club
      operators only decided to go public yesterday because they hope Chicago's
      music community will come to court next week to support the club. "We
      didn't want to do what Sue Miller did with Lounge Ax; we thought she
      handled that poorly," he said.

      Lounge Ax owners Miller and Julia Adams waged a protracted public battle
      with landlords at their Lincoln Avenue club before they were forced to
      close in 2000. Ironically, Double Door's operators started their venue to
      compete with Lounge Ax during the height of the alternative-rock era, when
      Billboard magazine dubbed Chicago "the capital of the cutting edge" and
      named Wicker Park as its epicenter.

      Both sides are optimistic that they will prevail in court, but both granted
      that regardless of the judge's ruling, Double Door isn't likely to close
      soon.

      If the club owners win their case, the lease will be extended for four more
      years with modest increases in rent, Golden said. If the landlords win,
      Mulroney promises to appeal, and he said that process could drag on for as
      long as three years.
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