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Ex-Double Door Landlord Sues Ald. Moreno Over Downzoning Threat

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jul 21, 2017 3:05PM

double door photo via instagram

The bitter saga between Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) and former Double Door landlord Brian Strauss is now heading into the legal arena. Strauss on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Moreno—plus the City of Chicago and the City Council's Zoning Committee—alleging that the alderman has carried out a "vindictive and irresponsible attack" against the property owner in regards to the famed music club, which was evicted from its longtime Wicker Park digs by Strauss earlier this year.

The club was at the center of a protracted eviction hearing last year after Strauss alleged that Double Door owners had violated their tenancy lease. Moreno was strongly opposed to the eviction. The Double Door was ejected for good from its location in late February, after more than 20 years at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.

According to the Sun-Times, Strauss alleges that Moreno's 2015 proposal to downzone the Double Door property—which would restrict ground-level operations for any potential tenants—was a "spot zoning" violation motivated by "a personal and financial relationship" with the Double Door. (The zoning change has not been advanced beyond the Committee stage.)

The Sun-Times reports:

At [a private City Hall] meeting [following the eviction], Strauss said Moreno used “subtle threats” to warn him that if he did not allow Double Door back into the space, he would be subject to a long and expensive zoning process and that the space could remain vacant for years.

An irritate Moreno was filmed arguing with Strauss outside the club on the day of the eviction. "You can't sign new leases for your tenants. It's going to be an empty building with no income for you or your family. End of conversation," he said. Moreno defended his actions, saying that "people get heated" and that Strauss himself had engaged in intimidating behavior.

Moreno did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday.

Strauss is seeking $9.6 million. He says that one potential buyer of the property abandoned a deal for that amount out of fear of the property being downzoned.