Former Mayor Daley Could Testify In Park Grill Lease Lawsuit

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 29, 2014 4:30PM

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Photo credit: Moe Martinez

The city’s ongoing lawsuit to break the 30-year lease it signed with the restaurant team that runs Millennium Park’s Park Grill could pit Chicago’s two most recent mayors against each other in court.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley could testify next week as a Cook County Circuit Court judge will determine if Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempt to break the contract Daley’s administration handed Park Grill a decade ago can proceed. That contract with the team known as Millennium Park Joint Venture included Daley confidants Matthew O'Malley, James Horan and Fred Bruno Barbara. The team only had to pay the city $275,000 in rent a year and 4 percent of their gross receipts, while freeing them from the responsibilities of gas, water, garbage and property tax bills. To date Park Grill has only paid the Chicago Park District $2.7 million in rent, while the city has picked up a $3 million tab for amenities including free garbage collection, natural gas and water.

Emanuel’s administration filed a lawsuit in 2011 to break the deal and contends it’s illegal because the restaurant is open on city property and wasn’t approved by City Council. Park Grill’s owners counter the city knew full well of the deal and countersued to keep its terms in place. Park Grill is seeking nearly $13 million in damages after the Park District refused to let them sell their stake in the restaurant to Levy restaurants after Emanuel became mayor. If Daley testifies he would be a defense witness for the group.