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Evanston Scotches Tilted Kilt Plan Over ‘Community Standards’

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An image from the Tilted Kilt website (Tiltedkilt.com)

An image from the Tilted Kilt website (Tiltedkilt.com)

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EVANSTON (CBS) — The City of Evanston has decided to reject a plan for a racy Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery in the downtown Fountain Square area.

Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl rejected the building owner’s application for a liquor license for the Tilted Kilt, saying the establishment does not comply with community standards.

The establishment would have moved into the Fountain Square Building at 1601 Sherman Ave., which anchors the busy intersection of Sherman and Orrington avenues and Davis Street.

Some residents in the northern suburb had waged a strenuous campaign against granting the liquor license, calling the establishment a Hooters clone whose scantily clad waitresses unfavorably portrayed women and sent the wrong message.

Tilted Kilt features waitresses clad in “mini-kilt” and plaid push-up bras. The men on the staff also wear kilts.

Tisdahl said Monday she considered community opinion on both sides of the issue, including the argument that the Tilted Kilt would add to the city’s tax base. She denied building owner Ted Mavrakis’s application, she wrote in her opinion, based on “public safety concerns expressed by residents and the fact the establishment failed to comply with recognized Evanston standards.”

At the end, “I felt the community standards were paramount in consideration of this,” she said.

She suggested an action by one of the Titled Kilt representatives at a charged liquor control board hearing April 26 factored in her decision. At the hearing, Mavrakis and a representative from Titled Kilt had maintained that residents opposition about dress were based on false perceptions of the restaurant as taken from pictures on the corporate website. They argued that the Titled Kilt operated as an upscale sports bar.

Tisdahl said the business card one of the Tilted Kilt representatives handed her showed a woman with no face to speak of and simply breasts and a bare midriff.” She said if the Titled Kilt website was inaccurate then the company “should change the website.”

Mavrakis, a longtime building owner and developer of Evanston properties, expressed disappointment at the mayor’s decision. He said the ground floor space has been vacant 15 months, and the few offers he received were far below market.

“If she (the mayor) couldn’t see that I would create 150 jobs in downtown Evanston, that I would spend millions of dollars to put up the place … she made a decision based on opinions, not facts. I don’t know if that’s leadership or what.”

But Cynthia Farenga, one of the residents who led opposition, said the group’s backing was significant, with some 2,200 signing a petition begun online.

“The mayor decided in favor of community standards,” said Farenga, an attorney, “and I’m delighted because it shows that organized people can advocate for their values and not be overridden by the values of corporate franchise America.”

“There’s got to be a community value judgment by somebody,” she said. “If we, the community, can’t make it, then defacto, the franchise makes it,” she said.

Mavrakis said he won’t appeal the mayor’s ruling.

Titled Kilt Pub & Eatery has been expanding and making a big push in the Chicago areas, establishing some 20 outlets, Mavrakis said. He said he has already been approached by the mayor of another north suburban community, asking him to bring the restaurant there.

Evanston Now says Mavrakis the community in question is Morton Grove.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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