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Double Door Leaves Wicker Park For Good, As Staff Alleges Landlord Shenanigans

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Feb 27, 2017 7:07PM

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The Atomic Numbers were amazing. Go find that album.

It’s over. Double Door is officially done in Wicker Park. The beloved music club was officially evicted from its home of 23 years on Milwaukee Avenue earlier this month, and as of last weekend, they're gone.

On a personal note, I’ve avoided writing about these final stages in hopes that landlord Brian Strauss would change his mind, but last weekend the staff of the iconic venue was given access to the space to move everything out—while being constantly watched and videotaped by Strauss’ staff. (Chicagoist reached out to Strauss via his attorney, and we'll update this post if we hear back.)

June! (On the left. My patron saint.)
During Strauss's lengthy effort to evict the club, and his negotiations with club owners Sean Mulroney and Joe Shanahan, I kept holding out hope that things would land differently—particularly because, according to Double Door reps, the venue had only recently spent tens of thousands of dollars of its own money to overhaul the space.

As Double Door's longtime staff look for a place to move next, it's still unclear what will take its place at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave. The Double Door’s staff made the final move out between Friday and Sunday. After being locked out of the space for weeks, the staff says they were only allowed to move out during three, eight-hour days. That's 24 hours total to move 24 years' worth of gear out of the building.

Double Door staff, who spoke to Chicagoist anonymously, said they spotted local Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) screaming at Strauss on the sidewalk in front of the club (a sign, we can only hope, that the space is headed for a rezoning).

Moreno told us, "As you know, I am a big fan of music and it is difficult to see Double Door being evicted because the landlord is being unreasonable. I want him to get a fair price, but in the opinion of many independent real estate professionals, his ask is totally unreasonable. What started out as an amicable conversation, became an intense one because we are both adamant about our stances. I don't want Double Door to leave and at the end of the day, I want to do everything I can to make sure a Wicker Park institution stays in the neighborhood."

The staff also said they found several unpleasant surprises when they entered the building over the weekend, for which they blame Strauss. For example, according to one longtime Double Door staffer, when they finally gained re-entry, they discovered the “ petty cash room was kicked open (with no sign of forced entry on the outside of the building) and $2700 in cash was stolen during the 18 days we were locked out.” Additionally, “all the audio and lighting breakers were turned on, so our gear was hot as fire when we got let in on Friday the 24th.”

“Strauss gave us three eight-hour days to clear out, which is not only unfair but also totally unsafe," the staffer also told us. "On the final day he would not let us use the bathrooms in the building—we had to leave and go elsewhere—and we were not allowed to eat or drink in the building.”

Furthermore, “Strauss would not allow us to put a "Thank You Wicker Park for 23 Great Years" sign on our marquee that we paid for,” the staffer claimed, and would not even allow some longtime office employees access to the building to say their farewells at all.

Our source says the Double Door staff should never have been subjected to this treatment.

“We were always current on our rent, in spite of what has been reported and is generally believed ... We chose to take the high road and not comment during legal proceedings and lease negotiations. Everything that Brian Strauss says is a lie or meant to manipulate the situation in some manner. You just don't kick out a tenant of 23 years when you have no tenant lined up and your building isn't even on the market."

I’ve worked in Wicker Park for over 20 years, and it seems Strauss is the latest landlord in the bustling area to let booming real estate values inspire shortsighted decisions. But, he owed Double Door better. And whoever he talks into moving into that space next will never fill the hole that venue’s eviction has left.

No lights. No speaker. No bands. No music.

Wicker Park used to be the heartbeat of Chicago’s music scene; you couldn’t stumble four feet without running into a band playing in a club, on the street or in the back of a taco shop. With this move, Wicker Park has lost one of its great cultural anchors.

Losing Double Door is a huge blow to Chicago. The only thing that lessens that blow is the understanding that the owners are looking into a new space and will launch a new era of live music elsewhere. But if ever you thought you heard the death knell of what made Wicker Park Wicker Park, it has finally sounded now.

I was lucky enough to unknowingly see the venue's final show—a bill that included many bands I'd booked in the past and both bandmates and staff I had spent decades with. I prefer to remember the room like that: vibrant and full of life. But I think it's a crime no one ever got to say a proper goodbye.

A side note: I have a deep personal history with Double Door, too. While I’ve been made to feel at home by a large number of Chicago music venues, for over 20 years Double Door was my musical home. I made many bad decisions there—including skipping this little band known as the Killers’ set in order to see the band I really wanted to see that night, *stellastar. And, um, I've made many bad personal decisions, usually in the basement of the venue at 3 a.m.—but through it all, the staff was always there to catch me and remind me that it was only rock and/or roll; and I liked it.