Despite months of negotiations and public pronouncements signaling a deal, the Chicago Park District has yet to initialize a deal with the owners of a restaurant group who are seeking to open a restaurant in Maggie Daley Park, according to a response to an information request from the Cook County Record.

As of June 10, the Park District said it could not provide documents relating to a contract or concession licensing agreement which could govern the development and operation of the restaurant, which the Park District has said would be built and operated by the Chicago-based Four Corners Tavern Group.

Maggie Daley Park
Maggie Daley Park

“A contract has not been executed for this matter,” the Park District said in response to the Cook County Record’s Freedom of Information Act request. “Therefore, pursuant to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act … you are denied access to the documents relating to the analysis of the bids and contracts as they are exempt from public disclosure.”

The Park District’s response indicated officials from the district and the restaurant group were continuing to work out details of the concession permit agreement and other governing documents, under an authorization granted by the Chicago Park District Board on Jan. 14.

Under that authorization, the Park District allowed its staff and leadership to enter talks with the Four Corners group and its majority interest holders, identified as Matthew Menna and Andrew Gloor, for a 10-year contract, with five potential one-year extensions, for the proposed restaurant in Maggie Daley Park, the newest major and very popular addition to Chicago’s group of downtown lakefront parks.

The agreement would cover such elements as the design, build out and operation of the proposed restaurant along Monroe Street at the park’s south end.

Park District officials have publicly trumpeted various purported terms of the potential deal, including $75,000 a year in rent to the district, plus 5-10 percent of gross sales. The restaurant group would also be responsible for paying for the construction of the restaurant and all utilities, Park District officials have said.

Park District Superintendent Michael Kelly has said in published reports that the restaurant, which officials and planners hope will feed off the park’s huge crowds, is expected to generate enough revenue to ensure Maggie Daley Park will “operate budget-neutral, if not in the black.”

Kelly and other officials have said they believe the Maggie Daley Park restaurant agreement terms will represent a “good deal” for the Park District and taxpayers. Kelly particularly contrasted the Maggie Daley Park concession deal to that held by the owners of the Park Grill in Millennium Park, which sparked a lawsuit from the city asking a judge to overturn the contract.

In that lawsuit, City Hall argued the deal’s “unconscionable” terms represented a “sweetheart deal” for the Park Grill ownership group, which purportedly included a number of investors known to be connected to former Mayor Richard M. Daley. In particular, the city alleged the restaurant owners should never have been allowed to pay the city fees based on net revenue, rather than gross; to be exempted from property taxes; or to receive free water, natural gas and trash pickup, among other favorable terms. The city alleged the terms were the result, in part, of insider dealings involving the restaurant group and the Park District, stemming from a romantic relationship between one of the leaders of the Park Grill group and a former Park District official who worked with those responsible for negotiating the Park Grill concession agreement.

However, in September 2015, Cook County Judge Moshe Jacobius ruled in favor of the Park Grill investors, saying the city waited too long to file suit to lend credence to its assertions City Hall had been misled by the Park District over the concession agreement’s terms.

Both sides filed appeals over the decision in late 2015. The city asked a state appellate panel to overturn Jacobius’ finding in favor of the Park Grill group, and the Park Grill investors asked the appellate justices to undo the judge’s decision preventing them from countersuing the city for fraud and tortious interference, among other items.

Those appeals remain pending.

A communications representative at the Park District did not respond to questions from the Cook County Record over the potential Maggie Daley Park restaurant, nor regarding how the terms of that concession operation agreement might compare to the Park Grill deal.

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