Moreno and Grandbar come to agreement


1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno

In the final hours of business on Monday, Nov. 28, Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, 1st Ward, and Gene Stokes, GrandBar, formerly Betty's Blue Star Lounge, 1600 W. Grand Ave., reached an agreement regarding the bar's operations. 

With a Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) deleterious impact hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning, "the agreement is that GrandBar will not be renewing their liquor license or their 4 a.m. license, which is up for renewal now. They will remain closed until they have a new concept to present to the community, which will not include a late night liquor license," explained Moreno. 

Convincing Stokes that it was in his best interest to move forward in this manner as he worked with residents and the Chicago Grand Neighbors Association (CGNA) is how Moreno was able to achieve this outcome, which cancels the hearing set for Tuesday.

According to a neighbor impacted by the difficulties at and around the bar, "They have been closed for about 2 weeks now and it's been incredibly quiet and nice."

Mr. Stokes was not available for comment.


GrandBar as shown on Google

This current series of deleterious impact hearings was the second series since 2014.

This year at a hearing on August 23, Chicago Police Commander Edward Kulbida, 12th District, said that in the previous three weeks, things had gotten worse. He and 12th District Sergeant Rebecca Arguelles listed a string of incidents and calls for service that went back to June and were as current as August 20.  

But by the end of the hearing, BACP's Senior Attorney Vera Elue told bar owner Stokes, "You need to do everything you can to turn this around by Oct. 4. Hire more qualified security; talk with the Commander about DJs; cut your hours to 2 a.m.; and whatever else you can do that will have the neighbors, alderman and police saying that everything is good." 

To renew his liquor licenses in mid November 2016, he had to be out of the deleterious impact hearings successfully.


Commander Edward Kulbida, 14th District

A shooting in August of 2014 is what prompted the first series of deleterious impact hearings. Neighbors and the Alderman have repeatedly said at hearings, since 2014, that they did not want the bar to go out of business, they just wanted them to change their operations so the noise, fights, shootings, pre-loading and post-loading in cars on neighboring streets, narcotics, trash, public urination and other disruptive behavior would stop.

Neighbors said that they wanted to patronize the establishment and be able to bring their children with them. They encouraged Stokes to add food.

Stokes said they were going to install a kitchen but never did, explaining that that was expensive

In August 2015, at an unprecedented fifth deleterious impact hearing in their first series, GrandBar was given the green light on their operation. 

Chicago Police Department's 12th District's Sergeant Rebecca Arguelles reported that there were two calls for service and they were from the bar. In addition, she explained that officers had been checking in at the location and found that their license and other documents were being properly displayed.

Rocio Varela, 1st Ward office, reported that they had received no complaints since the previous hearing.  

Two neighbors, Andrew Perdue and Dan Ryan, both said that they felt the owner and staff had worked hard to change the operation. Perdue said that not using the outside Friday night promoter had made a big difference. 

GrandBar, with an occupancy capacity of 249, had its first hearing on Nov. 4, 2014, triggered by a shooting  though they had their liquor license suspended for 14 days in December 2013. 

Stokes' mother, Betty, who is still listed as the bar's owner, started the business in 1989. She ran it until she turned it over to her son a few years before the 2013 suspension.


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