Park Grill’s Property Tax Soap Opera

Photo: courtesy Park Grill

The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled in favor of the Park Grill in its fight to avoid paying property taxes to the city, the Reader reports. Why does the restaurant at the northwest corner of Millennium Park get to skip out on its civic duty? It’s a fairly complicated explantion, involving a fair bit of mayoral inside-baseball and various acts of mutual backscratching: despite offering the lowest bid, back in 2005 the Park District awarded the contract to some Daley croneys, one of whom — the Sun-Times noted — had recently knocked up “a top Park District official” who happened to be the daughter of an former judge who was jailed on unrelated corruption charges. (Yes, that’d be out of wedlock.) But that’s just the people involved. What’s the deal with the money again?

The Park Grill’s tax exemption (and the ensuing court battle) stems from the difference between a lease and a concession agreement. The former, as a tenant, is obligated to pay property taxes; the latter, as a service-provider on someone else’s property, is not. Cook County assessor James Houlihan took the Park Grill to court, claiming that their occupation of the space was equivalent to a lease, but the restaurant — winningly, for the time being — countered with the fact that since the agreement they signed with the Park District isn’t called a lease, it’s not a lease.

So why wasn’t that agreement ever called a lease, in any legal sense? Well that’s not clear, but what is clear is that the restaurant’s owners include high-level Daley buddies “Matthew O’Malley, who also owns the Chicago Firehouse, where Daley took George W. Bush in 2006 to celebrate the president’s 60th birthday; relatives of Tim Degnan, the mayor’s former chief of staff and political strategist; and Fred Barbara, a Daley friend, millionaire businessman, and nephew of the late alderman and mobster Fred Roti.” It’s also clear that, per this court ruling, they’re not paying a penny. Just another day in Chicago, folks.

Still No Property Tax Bill for the Park Grill [Chicago Reader]

Park Grill’s Property Tax Soap Opera