Closing Arguments Presented In Bottled Blonde Liquor License Case

CHICAGO (CBS) — Closing arguments were presented Tuesday morning in the case of the liquor license of Bottled Blonde — the controversial River North restaurant and bar.

Attorneys for the city — who want the license be revoked — argued “all we have here” is bad behavior from the Bottled Blonde and that the business fudged the numbers to show most of their profits didn’t come from alcohol sales.

But an attorney for Bottled Blonde, Nick Ftikas, argued that the numbers weren’t fudged — merely clarified. Also, Ftikas said, the city’s contention that the business has diminished the quality of the neighborhood is “purely circumstantial.”

No ruling was made Tuesday. The hearing officer now has 60 days to make a recommendation to the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, which will then make a ruling on the case, according to department spokeswoman Lilia Chacon.

Walter Shuberg, Bottled Blonde’s office manager, testified for about 45 minutes Tuesday. Shuberg said after the matter was brought before the Liquor Control Commission, he gathered information showing, from March 2016 to February 2017, 49 percent of Bottled Blonde’s profits were from alcohol sales. Food accounted for 33 percent, while a “table service” fee made up the remaining 18 percent.

In the year-long period, Shuberg said, the Bottled Blonde made $9,215,689.

The city argued the “table service” fee was sometimes linked to customers buying bottle service, and therefore should be included in alcohol sales; that would put liquor at about two-thirds of Bottle Blonde’s revenue.

The license could be revoked, but a lesser penalty, such as a 30-day suspension, also is possible, Chacon said. The process was delayed when an earlier hearing was rescheduled after the Bottled Blonde’s previous attorney was arrested on drug charges in Michigan last month.

Since opening in 2015 at 504 N. Wells St., the restaurant has drawn the ire of neighbors complaining of loud music being played into the wee hours, as well as drunken patrons fighting and urinating in alleys.

City inspectors agreed with residents last year that Bottled Blonde was operating more like a nightclub than as the pizzeria it had a license for, according to records from the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

The restaurant was allowed to stay open only by agreeing to clean up its act with a “revised liquor license plan of operation,” promising to put up more trash cans, keep the sidewalk clean and limit a single-file line outside to 25 people. In that agreement, city officials emphasized that alcohol sales were to be “only incidental to the food service.”

The restaurant even enlisted the services of former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to help tighten up their security plan.

But in May, city investigators determined once again that the Bottled Blonde was still running primarily as a bar, leading to the new round of disciplinary hearings.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2017. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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