The city of Chicago and River North residents living near Bottled Blonde aren't happy with the Arizona-imported clubstaurant. They claim there are problems with noise, traffic and drunkards, as residents say Bottled Blonde is violating their plan of operation as a restaurant and instead is operating as a nightclub.
About 20 residents packed into a room in City Hall on Wednesday for a community meeting to address the matter. About 10 people representing Bottled Blonde sat in on the meeting, including a variety of managers, attorneys and investors. The meeting was organized by Ald. (42nd) Brendan Reilly's office.
Some of these problems were anticipated before Bottled Blonde's November opening, as residents circulated a petition and erected a website this summer. But the establishment presented itself as a restaurant before opening, leading to some of those complaints being quieted.
During the hour-long meeting, residents voiced traffic complaints, talked about garbage on their streets and patrons who vomit outside after being over served. Resident living across the street due said they couldn't sleep due to Bottled Blonde's thumping bass. There are also complaints regarding flashing lights and traffic building up on Wells Street. Residents also said that they've seen fights and heard obscenities shouted in the streets, and that Bottled Blonde security isn't doing enough.
A few residents even compared Bottled Blonde to a gentleman's club, saying they're seeing scantily-clad women walking out the door right after sunrise. A Bottled Blonde manager disagreed with the claim, saying during one instance that it was his wife. However, when presented with a photo from a cell phone, he couldn't confirm it was her.
Much of the contention is over Bottled Blonde using the word "restaurant" to describe itself, as angry residents don't think it should be classified as that. When submitting their plan of operation, the clubstaurant included a floor layout where tables and seats are located. It would be a violation if they moved these elements around, say to make room for a dance floor. It appears that's happening, and Barbara Gressel, a deputy commissioner with the city, told the Bottled Blonde officials to cease moving tables around at night. She sympathized with residents' concerns.
"This is not the suburbs or the woods of Wisconsin," Gressel said when reacting to the Bottled Blonde's apparent insensitivity to noise complaints. Officials from Bottled Blonde countered that they've spent a "considerable amount of money" on soundproofing, but apparently that's not enough for residents. Some of the problems are familiar, as the previous tenant, SushiSamba, also generated noise complaints. However, residents objected to the comparison, saying the problems with Bottled Blonde have been worse.
Gressel said she's not yet in the mindset of shutting the business down, but wants to make sure Bottled Blonde is a better neighbor. "The problem is with businesses who don't bother to show," she said, noting Bottled Blonde's entourage at the meeting.
The Bottled Blonde carried a reputation as a nightclub from Arizona, and in their opening press materials they were trying to get away from that, as there was a focus on food and claims of being a contemporary Italian restaurant. This was the second community meeting on the issue, and another is scheduled for May 13 to check if the Bottled Blonde made improvements, including removing valet and moving cab traffic to Illinois Street.