First reported 7/29/2010 3:49 p.m.
Inclusive - the controversial Berwyn nightclub that had some south Oak Park residents frustrated and angry a few years ago - is being replaced with a gay bar, restaurant and community center.
Located at 6319 Roosevelt across the street from Oak Park, Inclusive shut down two years ago because the owners weren't paying their rent, according to property owner Dave Shewmake. The business was the cause of angst for some neighbors, who complained of raucous noise, fights and patrons taking up parking on the 1150 blocks of S. Highland and Cuyler.
Shewmake said a lease has been signed, and José Casco plans to open a gay bar, restaurant and "civic center" called Antronio's in the next 45 days.
Casco, a 53-year-old resident of Chicago's West Lawn neighborhood, formerly owned a club called Chesterfield's in McKinley Park. The clientele was growing too fast for the small club, and he decided to sell it a few years ago and look elsewhere.
Antronio's will operate as a Mexican restaurant during the day, and switch to a gay, Latin nightclub starting at 10 p.m. on Thursday through Sunday. They'll close at 2 a.m. Thursday, 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 1 a.m. on Sunday.
Casco said he "fell in love" with the former Inclusive space a few years ago. But the business plan couldn't come together until more recently, because the previous administration in Berwyn wouldn't grant him a liquor license, with all the past transgressions of Inclusive. But with the election of Mayor Robert Lovero in 2009, the city became more open to the idea, according to Casco.
Himself a gay man, Casco believes that Antronio's will fill a niche for gays in the area that isn't currently being met. The large space will also be utilized for fundraisers for gay causes, along with other civic endeavors in the area.
The owner hopes to meet with the surrounding neighborhood in the future, to assure residents that the fights, graffiti and litter outside Inclusive are a thing of the past.
"We are really looking forward to serving this new community," he said. "I'm sure I have to do a lot of work with the neighbors, to make sure they know me and know what I'm about."
In the meantime, Shewmake, a resident of south suburban Orland Park, plans to sue the former owners of Inclusive in the near future for damages totaling about $100,000. He said they left the 5,500-square-foot retail space in shambles, and owe months worth of unpaid rent.
"As soon as we have all of the damages in order, I'm going to file suit," he said. "We're business owners, we're landlords and we're happy to have a tenant, of course, and this should be a tenant that's a lot more responsible than the last two we had there."