One of Chicago’s top breweries is facing eviction as a lease dispute could force Metropolitan Brewing out of its rustic Avondale space along the Chicago River. The brewery’s owners say they stopped paying rent more than a year ago and have struggled to come to an agreement with their landlord, a developer with ties to former Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who could be up for a cabinet position in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Metropolitan was served with an eviction notice on November 25, according to Cook County circuit court records. The notice demands Metropolitan to pay an outstanding balance of more than $800,000 in five days or lose the taproom space. The story was first reported by Crain’s. Rockwell’s attorneys claim the matter is straightforward — the brewery owes them money in rent and fees under the lease, thus the consequence of nonpayment is eviction. Rockwell’s attorneys filed an affidavit on Tuesday.
Specializing in German-style lagers, Metropolitan debuted in 2009 and launched the Avondale taproom eight years later in a space that overlooks the Chicago River. The taproom is connected to the brewery’s 20,000-foot brewing space. The development, called Rockwell on the River, also houses Metropolis Coffee Company and Judson & Moore Distillery.
The taproom has seating along the water and communal tables inside. A rotating food truck or vendor provides sustenance inside a unique rustic taproom. There are empty spaces in the hallway that leads to the taproom. Some of that space is used for private events. There have been rumblings about a food hall that have never been confirmed.
Metropolitan co-founder Tracy Hurst, however, tells reporters that the issue is more complex: she says the development company has overcharged rent on her business for years, dating back to the signing of a 15-year lease in 2015. She says they only discovered the discrepancy last year, telling reporters they signed a lease for a 24,000-square-foot space while the building’s landlord charges rent for a 33,000-square-foot space. The gap could be attributed to a floor that was removed during construction on the taproom, according to Hurst.
Hurst claims when Rockwell co-owner Paul Levy dropped by the taproom in the midst of renovations five years ago, he said he needed Hurst and Doug Hurst to immediately sign the lease so Levy could apply for building permits, according to Block Club Chicago. In an effort to start the business relationship on a positive note, they signed the lease on the spot without showing it to a lawyer, Tracy Hurst told reporters. Now years later, she says she regrets not having an attorney present, according to Block Club.
The two sides have had a contentious relationship, but a meeting with Levy’s lawyers in October had Tracy and Doug Hurst feeling optimistic. Tracy Hurst says they’ve paid two months rent to show they were operating in good faith. Then on Monday, Hurst learned of the eviction complaint from a reporter, saying that she hadn’t been served with court documents at the time.
The brewery in April announced that it would release canned beers for the first time ever, a move they resisted. That business decision, which predated the pandemic, turned out to be a lifeline as sales fell by about 90 percent since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March, Hurst told Eater at the time.
Levy is a real estate broker and co-owner of Rockwell Properties. He’s also a friend of former Chicago Mayor Emanuel, the Trib reports. Levy represented Emanuel in several real estate matters during his tenure.
- Metropolitan Brewing threatened with eviction [Crain’s]
- Metropolitan Brewing vows to fight eviction threat in lease dispute with landlord, claims landlord has overcharged [Chicago Tribune]
- Metropolitan Brewing Fighting Eviction From Riverfront Taproom, Say Landlord Made Them Overpay For Years [Block Club Chicago]