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UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Cleo’s plan to stay open until 4 a.m. nightly and 5 a.m. on Sundays did not appear to excite many folks who grilled Ukrainian Village bar owner Scott Floersheimer at a neighborhood meeting this week.
“If this doesn’t go right, everyone’s gonna hate you. They’ll see you around and say, ‘To hell with that guy, he was waking up my kids, my dog,’ ” said Bob Zwolinski, who owns a home near Cleo’s, a sports bar and restaurant at 1935-37 W. Chicago Ave.
“If it doesn’t go well, I’m out of business,” Floersheimer told Zwolinski, who was one of about 45 people at the East Village Association’s monthly meeting Monday night at Happy Village, 1059 N. Wolcott Ave.
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Cleo’s applied for the late hour liquor license on Jan. 8, city records show. The deadline for public comments to Liquor Commissioner Gregory Steadman, either in support or opposition, is Feb. 12.
Floersheimer’s community outreach efforts to get a late hour license at Cleo’s began in November.
Industry people looking for a place to go after their own bar shifts end will make up the bulk of Cleo’s late hour patrons and the kitchen will stay open late, making the spot the only home cooked food option on the block, which also has a 24-hour Subway and a McDonald’s, Floersheimer said.
When asked why he is applying for the late hour license, Floersheimer, who bought Cleo’s from a prior owner in 2010, said, “We want to do it to make more money to grow our business.”
The community benefit of Cleo’s staying open later would be added jobs, more tax revenue and with a recently bought neighboring building, the continuity of three buildings creating “a positive anchor on Chicago Avenue,” Floersheimer said.
According to county records, a long vacant building at 1939 W. Chicago Ave. was bought by a venture called “1939 W. Chicago Ave.” for $400,000 on Oct. 17.
Floersheimer declined to say who joined him in buying the building, just east of the Chicago and Damen avenues intersection.
“It is a partnership group with many investors,” he said.
1939 W. Chicago Ave. building next to Cleo’s that was bought in Oct. [Cook County Assessor]
Rich Anselmo, an East Village resident, said he wants to know what the plans are for 1939 W. Chicago Ave.
“I sell real estate and it’s a rare occasion someone buys something and doesn’t know what they’ll do with it,” Anselmo said.
Floersheimer replied, “We are going to do something there; we don’t know what. We flirted with the idea of knocking it down and making it a patio.”
Floersheimer said until recently, there was “a big problem with drug use” in the now boarded up building neighboring Cleo’s, which he said was home to “makeshift beds, hundreds of syringes and little baggies.”
Neal McKnight, who lives a few blocks of Cleo’s, took issue with the fact that Floersheimer said he does not know the ratio of food to liquor sales at his business.
Cleo’s has an incidental liquor license, meaning liquor is incidental to food.
“It’s hard to believe you don’t know the difference between liquor and food sales,” McKnight told Floersheimer and questioned why he did not come to Monday’s gathering with those numbers because the same question had been asked of him last month, when members of the Chicago Grand Neighbors Association met with Floersheimer and Ald. Joe Moreno (1st).
On Monday, Floersheimer promised the group he would provide a breakdown of food to liquor sales by Feb. 16.
Jed Skag, who lives in the 800 block of North Hermitage Avenue, near Cleo’s, was among the few to support the plan.
“I like the idea of having another destination. An extra hour does not seem like it will make a big difference. If people are causing trouble in a bar at 3 a.m., they they will cause it at 5 a.m. too,” Skag said.
Under city ordinance, Floersheimer needs to get signatures of support from the majority of registered voters living within 500 feet of the bar, a task that said has been completed, along with drafting a plan of operation that is being finalized.
Once signed off on by Steadman, the “plan of operation” will be posted online, joining over 150 other Chicago business that are required to operate under more restrictive plans of operation.
Floersheimer said the signatures were given to the city on Jan 8, when he applied for the license, and are “going through a detailed audit process.”
After the signatures are verified, the matter will come before Moreno.
Moreno, who was not at the meeting, said Tuesday that he has not yet made a decision on whether he supports the late hour request.
No member votes were taken at the East Village Association gathering. The group’s president Dan Johnson said, “A lot of people like Cleo’s. They like the business and the bar. But their concern is about the late night license and impact on the community.”
Lyn Wolfson, president of the Chicago Grand Neighbors Association, said Tuesday her group also has not taken a formal stance for or against Cleo’s late hour request.
But 13 people who live within CGNA’s boundaries shared their opinion on the plan at a Jan. 19 meeting. Wolfson said eight CGNA members were opposed, four were in support and one was undecided. Of the eight opposed, three households live within 500 feet of Cleo’s, she said.
“We felt the biggest emphasis should be on people within 500 feet. After the meeting, we got three letters via email from those within 500 feet who voiced opposition, for a total of 6 [within 500 feet of Cleo’s who are against the plan],” she said.
Currently there are 138 other late-hour bars, according to the city’s data portal. The nearest late-hour spot that revelers on Chicago Avenue tend to frequent after Cleo’s closes is The Continental, 2801 W. Chicago Ave. in Humboldt Park.
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