Millennium Park

Closing Arguments Heard in Park Grill Lawsuit

Attorneys for the City of Chicago and Park Grill restaurant delivered closing arguments Friday in an ongoing lawsuit over the terms of a 30-year deal struck more than a decade ago.

The city sued Park Grill, the restaurant that anchors Millennium Park, in 2011 over what it called a sweetheart deal negotiated under the Richard J. Daley administration in 2003.

Park Grill pays no property taxes, garbage collection fees or water fees to Chicago because it is classified as a concessions vendor, the terms of which Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he wants to change.

Emanuel in 2011 said the Park Grill's owners needed to pay the city property taxes. The case went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court and the court sided with Park Grill.

Under the original terms, Park Grill's investors would be required to pay about $275,000 a year in base payments. After 10 years they've paid about $2.6 million, and taken in gross profits closer to $96 million.

The mayor sued again, this time to restructure the deal. The second lawsuit includes both the Park Grill and the Park District as defendants.

Emanuel has said Chicago taxpayers were taken advantage of and said he intends to "make sure city taxpayers are not in any way fleeced."

Park Grill's lawyer, Steve Novack, has said that a deal's a deal and at the time it was struck in 2003 the appetite for starting a restaurant wasn't that great.

Novack said the restaurant industry was in turmoil and it was uncertain what the future Millennium Park would be.

In December a videotape surfaced of a meeting 13 years ago that Park Grill says is a game changer that proves their case. The city disagrees.

The meeting happened when the park district heard from the three finalists wanting to be chosen for the Millennium Park space.

"It recorded what really happened, there's no doubt about it, and it corroborates the Park Grill story," Novack said.

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