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Chicago Brewery Swept Up in Northwest Side Alderman’s Text Message Scandal

Also, “Handmaid’s Tale” star Elisabeth Moss dropped into popular Chicago Italian spot

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season 3 Finale
Elisabeth Moss dined this weekend at an adored neighborhood Italian spot.
Photo by Erik Voake/Getty Images for Hulu

Chicago beer maker Lake Effect Brewing — and its long-awaited Jefferson Park brewery and taproom — have joined a large and diverse cast of local characters caught up in recent revelations about Ald. (45th Ward) Jim Gardiner that include allegations of stalking, falsifying complaints and city tickets, and attempts to seek retribution against critical constituents.

Text messages sent in June 2019 between Gardiner and an unnamed aide indicate that staff performed a background check on Lake Effect owner Clint Bautz, according to watchdog blog the People’s Fabric. At the time, Bautz and local developer Ambrosia Homes were several years into an effort to buy a historic firehouse from the city at 4841 N. Lipps Avenue.

Gardiner sent a letter “in full support of the project by Ambrosia Homes” two months later to the city’s Department of Housing, but former staffers reportedly say that the alderman tried to persuade the developer to ditch Lake Effect and find a new tenant. In September, when an aide texted Gardiner about a reference Bautz had made in a project meeting to Lake Effect’s firehouse venture, the alderman tried to strike a tough-guy pose. “That little fucker best be careful,” the alderman texted, according to People’s Fabric.

As project negotiations continued, the “full support” Gardiner initially promised over time deteriorated into a word salad of equivocation: “I want to clarify that the letter that we wrote was more a letter not in opposition as opposed to saying that we are in favor of this,” he says in a September 2020 Plan Commission meeting.

Brewery management wasn’t immediately reached. Despite a fraught, years-long process that included a legal battle, officials in April approved the sale of the 115-year-old firehouse. In addition to a brewery and restaurant, the building will feature rental loft apartments and is slated to cost about $2.4 million overall.

Gardiner has been silent since news of this scandal broke with a series of texts surfacing that, according to the Sun-Times, revealed at “a stunningly hateful and misogynistic streak.” Residents are asking him to resign, according to Block Club Chicago.

And in other news...

— The Baker’s Dozen — a secret society of the owners behind some of Chicago’s most popular bakeries — is still meeting after nearly a century to taste each other’s wares and advise one another, Jennifer Billock writes for Block Club Chicago. The story is a segment of her new book, Historic Chicago Bakeries, which illuminates the legacy of longtime society members like Dinkel’s Bakery, Weber’s Bakery, Calumet Bakery, and many more. Founded in large part by European immigrants, the group has helped historic bakeries alive. Still, it begs the question, are panadería owners eligible for membership?

— And finally, blessed be the chicken parm, may the breading crunch: Handmaid’s Tale star Elisabeth Moss dined over the weekend at retro red sauce Italian icon Club Lucky in Wicker Park, according to a Facebook post.

Club Lucky

1824 West Wabansia Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 227-2300 Visit Website