There was no showdown this morning at City Hall between Bottled Blonde and city officials. The 9:30 a.m. liquor commission hearing lasted less than a minute as attorneys agreed to a July 11 continuance to discuss the embattled bar’s liquor license. Today’s is the first in what’s to expected to be a series of hearings regarding the River North bar which made headlines last week when a photo of its restrictive and lengthy dress code made the internet rounds.
The dress code is not the issue, however, as Bottled Blonde could lose its liquor license over complaints first lodged two years ago. Neighbors’ concerns include over-served patrons, security, and traffic. About 10 neighbors attended the meeting, while the only person representing the Bottled Blonde in attendance was attorney Timothy Fitzgerald. Neither city attorney Bill McCaffrey or Fitzgerald spoke much during the hearing and neither provided statements afterward.
Resident David Shiba predicted the meeting would be a short one. He’s one of the residents who spearheaded a petition to shut the bar down, or at least have them better listen to residents’ concerns. Fellow neighbor Miriam Waltz echoed those concerns.
“Right now we don't have responsible business owners,” Waltz said.
The road to the liquor commission hearing started last summer when City Hall played host to three community meetings where police, neighbors, and Bottled Blonde staff sounded-off on the aforementioned complaints. The Bottled Blonde presented itself as a restaurant, even in its press materials that described it as “contemporary Italian.” That’s how they gained city approval for permits, claiming they were operating as a restaurant. An operating agreement for a bar is subject to different city regulations.
At no time during last summer’s meetings did the dress code come up. However, residents after today’s meeting noted that it’s curious that the dress code only comes out on certain nights when certain DJs are performing.
The company’s Arizona-based bars attract college coeds and others who like to dance and drink in a party atmosphere with guests who aren’t subjected to the same strict dress code. Neighbors in Chicago asked the city to shut down Bottled Blonde claiming they lied to the city about its operation, pointing out that no restaurant would remove dining tables and seats at night to make room for DJs and dancing. Residents this morning once more made those issues known.
Bottled Blonde’s attorneys maintained that the definition of a restaurant varies, and they had the right to run their business as they pleased. Unlike last summer’s hearings, no staff attended the hearings.
The drama continues to unfold as the interested parties will be back in five weeks at City Hall.