Cubs’ GM Theo Epstein isn’t the only one who makes sweet deals in Wrigleyville, as it turns out many of the neighborhood’s restaurant and bar owners are receiving substantial property tax breaks. Cook County officials are allowing these operators to use a loophole so they can avoid paying full property taxes, according to a Sun-Times investigation. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who owns 10 buildings behind Wrigley Field with rooftop bleacher seats to watch baseball games, has also received tax breaks that have saved him “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to the newspaper.
The Sun-Times found that 32 out of 65 buildings around Wrigley Field are taking advantage of the loophole and paying a total of about $2 million less than they should owe. They’re getting away with this by classifying their bars/restaurants as residential properties instead of commercial. Cook County is the only county in Illinois to tax residences less than commercial properties. When they adopted this policy 17 years, county officials thought they’d be giving independent business, “mom and pop” spots, a break. The breaks apply to space smaller than 20,000 square feet with fewer than six apartments, according to the Sun-Times.
For example, Casey Moran’s, 3660 N. Clark St., built a tiny apartment upstairs two years ago. That allowed them to reclassify the entire building as residential and slashed property taxes by 60 percent, or by $110,000. It’s a clever strategy, one endorsed by Ald. Tom Tunney of the 44th Ward (which includes Wrigley). He’s the former chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association, and owns Ann Sather Restaurant. Tunney told the Sun-Times that he advises small businesses to build a small apartment in their buildings if they can to take advantage of the savings.
Of course, owners of restaurants and bars in other neighborhoods could also take advantage of the law. However, some Wrigleyville owners have painted a target on themselves, as owners in other neighborhoods can’t charge fan huge cover charges when the Cubs make a playoff run.