Double Door Lease Dispute

Owners of Chicago’s 500-capacity Double Door will go to trial in hopes of extending the club’s lease into 2009. Club co-owner Sean Mulroney suspects landlords may be trying to evict the venue so they can bring in a national chain willing to pay higher rent.

The June 9th trial will focus on a dispute over the notification that Double Door was required to give landlords about renewing the club’s lease.

Howard Golden, the landlords’ attorney, said the notification letter was supposed to be sent by March 2004 but he didn’t receive it until June. However, Mulroney, who is also an attorney, claims the letter was sent on time.

“We feel that we did what we were supposed to do,” Mulroney told Pollstar. “The lease specifies that it’s upon mailing and not upon receipt. We can’t control when someone receives it; we can only control when we mail it.”

Golden said there were negotiations to allow Double Door to stay, but the club would have to pay a higher rent. That didn’t go over well.

When Double Door moved into the Wicker Park neighborhood in 1994, the area was less than desirable. But “it’s now one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city,” Mulroney said.

“It’s gone from celebratory gunfire on weekends to soccer moms pushing little blonde babies in jogging strollers,” he added. “The market value for rent along Milwaukee Avenue (Double Door’s location) has increased dramatically.”

Due to gentrification, the venue still pays $9 per square foot, which equals out to approximately $4,000 rent per month, Mulroney said. But now, the fair market value of the property is approximately $27 per square foot, according to Golden.

The attorney added that landlords offered Double Door a deal that would have the venue pay “a lot less” than $27, but the club refused the offer.

“We were willing to give them a very substantial discount below fair market value,” Golden told Pollstar. “They felt it was still too much, and hence we have the litigation.”

Mulroney said the two have come close to reaching a deal on the dollar amount but cannot come to an agreement on additional terms.

He believes the dispute is an excuse for landlords to oust Double Door, which has hosted the likes of The Rolling Stones and helped develop acts including Smashing Pumpkins, Kid Rock, Macy Gray, and The Strokes over the years.

“I think they’re just trying to use a technicality to either jack the rent up to a ridiculous amount or get us out and put somebody in there who’s willing to pay above market,” Mulroney said.

“Our landlords have alluded to the fact that they’re interested in bringing in a national chain or restaurant chain.”

Meanwhile, Mulroney believes the venue will be able to stay for most of its remaining contract regardless of what the Cook County Chancery Court rules.

“If we prevail, we get to run through the rest of this extension with an additional four years,” he said. “If the judge finds against us, the appellate process in Illinois is approximately three years. … We’d still be almost to the end of our lease.”

Ultimately, the club owners hope the landlords will sell the space to Double Door. Mulroney said the venue has first right of refusal and its owners have been interested in acquiring the space for some time.

“I’d just like to buy the building and get rid of these guys,” Mulroney said. “They’re not interested in doing that yet, but I think they might be.”

Mitchell Peters