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Billy Goat Tavern To Close Location At Washington And Franklin

Billy Goat Tavern

The Billy Goat Tavern at Washington and Franklin streets is closing. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Billy Goat Tavern is closing its location in the northwest section of the Loop.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, the Billy Goat II, at 309 W. Washington St. on the ground floor of the old Illinois Bell Telephone Company building at the southwest corner of Washington and Franklin streets, is closing effective May 1.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports

The location has been open for 30 years. But Billy Goat owner Sam Sianis tells the Chicago Sun-Times he has decided to close the location because the landlord wants to raise the rent by more than double.

The rent had been about $6,500 per month on a month-to-month lease, but the landlords were going to raise it to $15,000 per month, the Sun-Times reported.

Sianis tells the Sun-Times he is looking for another space in the Loop.

A spokesman with Washington-Franklin LLC which owns the building, tells WBBM Newsradio that for the past two years, the company had given the Billy Goat a 50 percent reduction on its rent to help the restaurant during a restructuring period, and now wanted to charge it market rent.

Meanwhile, the Billy Goat space in the building will be taken over by Naf Naf, a Mediterranean restaurant that currently has locations in Aurora, Naperville and Niles, the Sun-Times reported.

Naf Naf is expected to open in the fall. Also moving into the building is a Verizon store, which will take over the space long occupied by Adam Brent’s independent bookstore, the Sun-Times reported.

The building dates from 1927, the newspaper reported.

The original Billy Goat location, located on the subterranean level at 430 N. Michigan Ave., remains open. That location opened in 1964, and was popularly parodied by John Belushi on “Saturday Night Live” during the 1970s, in his “cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger” sketch set at the fictional Olympia Café.

The original Billy Goat also has a storied reputation as a hangout for local journalists. It was a favorite of the legendary Mike Royko, and more recently was the site for the shutdown party of the City News Service, formerly the City News Bureau, on New Year’s Eve 2005.

A paperboard banner commemorating City News still hangs in the back of the Lower Michigan Avenue tavern, along with a faded handwritten “correction” by then-City News staffer Kyle Morrison which, in true City News style, quibbles with the exact time and date that the legendary wire service shut down.

The Billy Goat also has locations at 330 S. Wells St., at 1535 W. Madison St. near the United Center, at Navy Pier, the Merchandise Mart and O’Hare International Airport, at the Lake County Fielders Stadium in Zion, at the Randhurst Village mall in Mount Prospect, and in Washington, D.C.

The Billy Goat Tavern was founded in 1937 by Sam Sianis’ uncle, William “Billy Goat” Sianis. The original location was across from the old Chicago Stadium on the Near West Side.

Billy Sianis is also famous for being denied entry into a 1945 Cubs World Series game against the Detroit Tigers at Wrigley Field. Legend has it that the Cubs’ choice to refuse to admit the goat is responsible for the curse that kept the team from winning, or even making, a World Series anytime since.