Millennium Park

City Lawsuit Against Park Grill in Jeopardy After Old Video Surfaces

There are new developments in the ongoing lawsuit between the City of Chicago and the popular Millennium Park restaurant Park Grill: The city wants to undo the rest of a 30-year contract with the restaurant's investors.

NBC 5 learned that a videotape of a meeting 13 years ago has suddenly surfaced. That meeting happened when the park district heard from the three finalists wanting to be chosen for the Millennium Park space.

Park Grill says this tape is a game changer that proves their case. The city disagrees.

Whether you've skated at the ice rink at its front door or dined inside the restaurant, Park Grill has become a favorite.

It's also been the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. Once Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office, he hired private attorneys to terminate the rest of the 30-year contract.

Park Grill pays the city $250,000 a year in rent, plus percentage fees. It receives free garbage, water and gas. They pay no property tax. This was all part of the original agreement.

The videotape taken at the park district selection meeting on Oct. 11, 2001, has suddenly surfaced after years of Park Grill investors asking for it and being told no one could find it.

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

It's a complicated story. Park Grill investors have deep ties to Mayor Daley. However, the Emanuel administration points out that one of the Park Grill investors has two children with Laura Foxgrover, a former park district employee. They allege Foxgrover steered the choice.

Park Grill attorneys have filed a new memorandum pointing out that despite testimony from two city employees, the video proves Foxgrover was not at the meeting.

"It definitely goes to credibility and it goes to the other evidence," Novack said. "She did not influence this."

The tape also answers the question about the number of years of the contract. It came up at this meeting, disputing city officials' testimony.

"The Park Grill representatives said they would need 20 or 30 years or more. In fact, all three bidders, one asked for 20 years, one asked for 40 years," Novack said.

The mayor's office believes the videotape will help their argument. The city's attorney responded, "This deal has already cost the city $8 million in past damages ... the city will incur losses up to an additional $25 million if this illegal sweetheart deal is not terminated."

The city argues it doesn't matter whether Foxgrover was in the room. Part of the Park Grill argument asks, what if the restaurant had not been as successful? Would the city have sued then? In their eyes, a deal is a deal.

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