Reporting Bob Roberts
CHICAGO (CBS) – A Cook County Circuit Court judge has given the owner of a Bucktown bar until Tuesday to come up with $135,000 — or lose the establishment, which has a history dating back 50 years.
Tina Congenie, the owner of Marie’s Rip Tide Lounge, said she has only $10,000 of the money needed, although she is hoping her regulars will “provide a miracle.”
The bar, at 1745 W. Armitage Av., is at the center of a battle in Probate Court over the will of Tina’s former business partner, Marie Wuczynski. Congenie said Wuczynski left her the bar when she died, but an estranged son of Wuczynski is contesting the will.
Congenie said she would be asking all of the regulars at the bar to contribute toward the $135,000 goal.
“It’s now or never,” she said.
Congenie said the bar, which was once featured on comedian Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk show, will be open nightly through Monday, but said she was told that if the bar changes hands, it will be knocked down “and replaced by a parking garage.”
A crowd filled the bar Thursday night, most hoping against hope that they weren’t witnessing the bar’s last call.
Annie Coakley said she used to go to Marie’s a lot more when she was a bit younger, but said it has what she wants in a bar — no pretenses, seating for 50, and a good jukebox.
“What I really would hate to see is some national chain, a branch bank, or a McDonald’s replacing this,” she said.
Congenie grew up in the bar; she said Wuczynski and her mother were good friends, and that her playpen “was in the back room.” For years, she helped Wuczynski manage the bar, and she said that before Wuczynski died, she made it clear the bar was to be hers, and not Wuczynski’s estranged son’s.
Thursday night, Congenie sat at the end of the bar trying to sort out sharks from potential saviors. A sound engineer and several fellow regulars were the most promising. She said they told her that they would try to find some serious cash.
Congenie said others offered to give her the needed money in exchange for the deed, but said she wasn’t about to do that.
“(Marie) would tell me to most definitely keep fighting, keep doing it,” Congenie said. “Don’t give up. Just keep going.”
Rachel Yas is another customer who hopes Congenie can. She said she cannot stand bars filled with “boys in football jerseys yelling at a TV.”
“Everything’s negotiable, yes?” she asked.