Geek Bar has put out the bat signal, launching an online fundraising campaign for donations to keep the Wicker Park restaurant and bar in operation. The fundraising goal is $20,000, and the bar has bounced payroll checks and faces a lawsuit over bills.
So far, in the campaign's first day, they've raised more than $5,000. Geek Bar owner David Zoltan said this was the only way to save the bar, which faced mounting unpaid bills and a February lawsuit over money spent on the building originally intended for Geek Bar at 1960 N. Clybourn Ave. That lawsuit with creditors totals almost $13,000. Zoltan said they're close to a settlement in the case.
In addition to the $20,000 donation goal, Zoltan says $75,000 would allow him to establish a reserve and further fiscal stability. Zoltan and his staff hope to keep operating at their current space at 1941 W. North Ave., as plans to move to Clybourn have been abandoned: "We're going to get there because the nerd community believes in us," Zoltan said.
Zoltan says the business has been solid and there's a demand for his shrine to board games, comics, sci-fi and all things geek. Currently they're doing a Pulp Fiction-inspired burger special, the Royale With Cheese. Originally intended as a temporary solution, Geek Bar Beta has been operating for 9-1/2 months in the former Storefront Company space as problems mounted on Clybourn.
Why is Geek Bar in this predicament? Despite tough decisions, including downsizing staff from more than 20 to about 15, there's also been some poor planning. The Clybourn building needed much more than the $45,000 of work first believed, and Zoltan said they've sunk more than $300,000 into the building, and haven't found city of Chicago officials to be helpful. He says they're a victim of ward redistricting, as aldermen Michelle Smith and Bob Fioretti have had their attentions split. There's also the RANCH Triangle, a group of clout-wielding citizens with political connections. Zoltan said they take pride in making business jump through hoops: "I think that was a horrible approach from the beginning," he said.
The RANCH's planning chair, Diane Levin, told DNAinfo that Zoltan exaggerated and that the group has concerns about Geek Bar's security, parking, hours and transportation. Levin even said they were worried that a Geek Bar patron dressed up as Spider-Man would be beaten up while leaving the area near Lincoln Park, though she later said she was joking.
According to the Chicago police, there were zero reports of crime activity within a 1/4 mile of the bar site from July 3 to July 16, the most recent data available on the department's website.
So what's next for Geek Bar? Check back when the fundraising campaign's complete.