If a downtown property owner has his way, Oak Park’s oldest bookstore will be evicted soon and against the store owner’s wishes.

Barbara’s Bookstore is embroiled in a court battle over its monthly rent. The store, part of a small chain, has been at the northwest corner of Lake and Marion since 1989 and in the village since the early 1970s.

Property owner Anthony Shaker says the bookstore is behind in its rent and is suing Barbara’s in Cook County Circuit Court for $57,685, plus attorney fees and any other associated costs.

On the other side, Barbara’s owner Don Barliant believes his store has been overcharged for its rent since August 2005, by an amount now totaling $88,252, more than enough to cover the alleged shortfall.

“We expect and intend to be in Oak Park for a long time,” Barliant, 72, said last week from his home in Santa Fe. “We’ve been there for more than 35 years; we intend to continue to be there, and we hope that this dispute will be resolved.”

Shaker declined to comment last week, saying in an e-mail that he no longer speaks to the media. His Oak Park-based attorney, Bill Sullivan, also declined to comment because the case is ongoing.

But according to the lawsuit, filed Sept. 18, Shaker Management is seeking to reclaim the property through the Illinois Forcible Entry and Detainer Act.

Barbara’s has been renting the 5,700-square-foot space since 1989, expanding in 1991 to that current size. The store was most recently being charged a base rent of $14,048 per month, with its lease set to expire on July 31, 2010, according to the suit.

With the eroding state of the economy, the landlord agreed in February to reduce Barbara’s rent by half, charging only $6,689 per month for following six months. The store owner was then required to pay the deferred amount of $40,137 by Aug. 1, according to court documents.

That date came and went, and Barliant claims that Shaker verbally agreed to continue deferring rent past August. The store paid its discounted rent for September. The owner cashed the rent check and then subsequently sued Barbara’s, according to Barliant.

“The current lease makes no market sense.” Barliant said. “It overvalues the property, and obviously Shaker acknowledged that.”

Shaker Management is seeking $40,137 in deferred rent, as well as September’s rent and expenses, for a total of $57,685. Altogether, the landlord wants $16,112 per month, or $537 per day, which factors in $1,423 per month in real estate taxes.

But Barliant contends that Barbara’s wasn’t obligated to pay real estate taxes anymore because they weren’t specified in a February 2005 amendment to the lease. So, Barbara’s has allegedly been overcharged since 2005 by a total of $88,252. He says the overage should be applied to cover the deferred rent amount and any other monies still owed to Shaker.

Barliant hopes to stay at the current location at least until the lease expires next year. If Barbara’s can’t reach an agreement with Shaker for an extension or is evicted, they plan to look for a new location in Oak Park, he said.

He declined to say how much the store is earning at the Oak Park location. Barliant also declined to comment on a classified advertisement placed by Shaker in last week’s Wednesday Journal, listing Barbara’s retail space as available. Shaker’s attorney motioned to dismiss the store’s argument on Oct. 9. A court date on the motion is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26, at the Maybrook Courthouse in Maywood.

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