Bar Louie space on the rental market

Commercial units at Lake Street building largely vacant

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The commercial space currently occupied by Bar Louie restaurant, 1122 Lake St., is on the rental market, according to a listing on the website of the real estate group Mid-America Urban.

The listing notes that the space where Bar Louie has been located since 2006 is not the only commercial condo available in the so-called Eleven 20 Club building. Four other ground-floor suites, all of which are vacant, also are on the rental market.

The Fitness Formula Clubs-Oak Park, located at 1114 Lake St., is the only commercial unit in the building that is unavailable, according to the listing.

Bar Louie is still open for business, but it is unclear for how long. Neither a spokesman for Mid-America Urban nor Bar Louie could immediately be reached for comment.

The listing identifies the Bar Louie space as a 5,987-square-foot unit, nearly 1,000 larger than the adjacent commercial space to the east, where Mattress Firm formerly was located. That space is listed at 5,020 square feet.

Another vacant commercial space to the east of the former mattress shop, which formerly housed Bruegger's Bagels, is listed at 2,227 square feet. To the east of that space is a vacant 1,289-square-foot commercial space that most recently housed a sales office for the Emerson development. The final vacant ground-floor commercial space, located on the alley north of Bar Louie, is 1,720 square feet.

Combined the storefronts make up 16,243 square feet of commercial property in downtown Oak Park.

The listing notes that the owner of the building would consider combining spaces for interested buyers.

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Reader Comments

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Jan Stephens  

Posted: July 19th, 2019 9:20 PM

Gregg Kuenster, any failing bars in FP are doing so because there are far too many and little to differentiate them. The bar owners claim the failure is due to video gambling being voted out. I think it's more likely that they were foundering BEFORE the gambling was chosen as the savior. Re other comments, the minimum wage has little impact on business success. Suspicion lurks that OP taxes are, and always have been the culprit.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 12th, 2019 8:11 AM

@ BK& RL: Thanks for the response. While no two communities are rarely alike I can only go on what I see, or think I see. Your input great appreciated. I am saying that maybe the approach to problems and issues in Oak Park might be different than the approach in Elmhurst. I really cant put my finger on the exact issues on my thoughts, but it seems we wrestle with the same problems on a cycle basis. Thanks to all

Bruce Kline  

Posted: February 12th, 2019 1:30 AM

Brian: I can confirm what Ramona says is absolutely spot on, as I have been comparing properties and property taxes in the surrounding communities to those of Oak Park as well. There is absolutely NO comparison. Elmhurst's residential property tax burden is considerably less than Oak Park's. I assume the same is true in regard to commercial (but don't know for sure). By the way that huge hospital you mention - Elmhurst Hospital - pays NO property tax; where as one of our hospitals - West Sub - does. Oak Park and Elmhurst are indeed very different communities, with different wants and needs.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 11th, 2019 10:21 PM

Brian, I would imagine the school districts in Elmhurst don't rob their constituents blind. I just looked at and saw that houses that are selling for $300K have property taxes between $5k and $7k per year. A friend of mine just sold her house for $305K and she was paying $11k. Not sure about commercial property, but most likely aligns with residential.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 11th, 2019 9:11 PM

@ Alex Garcia: Yes to what all you say. However, you can go to Elmhurst, see a thriving downtown on York Road s/of North Avenue, high taxes, see a huge hospital and train station, library just like Oak Park and Elmhurst has fewer issues than Oak Park. One difference is that Elmhurst trustees are elected to represent a certain area of Elmhurst. Could it be that some towns handle the challenges and chaos better than others?

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 11th, 2019 5:49 PM

Just look at the prime corner of Marion and South Boulevard. The Wine and Cheese place left, Two Brothers has left, the jewelry store has closed down, the bicycle rental place has left (thanks go the DIVY debacle). Add to that deep pocket chains like 5 Guys, Bar Louies, etc. and things aren't exactly looking good for business owners in downtown Oak Park. Wait until the $15 an hour minimum wage is layered on top of the already high wages, rents/property taxes, etc and the people who marched and "fought" for higher wages, higher taxes (referendums), etc. are going to wonder why downtown Oak Park has more "for lease" than "open" signs. Sure, higher wages, more money for the kids, the new pool, the 19 new equity officers, it all "sounds good", but someone has to pay for it and when we can move across Harlem, North Ave, Austin, or Roosevelt to escape some of it, we'll do it.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: February 11th, 2019 4:49 PM

For those criticizing high-rise developments and their owners, I don't doubt that their practices contribute to high vacancy rates to a certain degree, but there have been vacancies in plenty of existing and new low-rise structures along Lake Street and OP Ave. I think that there's something else afoot that's contributing to the poor retail (restaurant, apparel, services, you name it) environment in Oak Park and Cook County more generally. In particular, it seems that retailers (national and local retailers) are suffering from OP/Cook's high taxes, high fees, challenging political environment, and decreasing population. OK and Cook officials should be asking themselves how they can instead create an environment that actually convinces residents and businesses (large and small) to stay, make a sound decision that this will be a good place to succeed in 1/5/10 years. Right now it's simply not an encouraging environment especially when our state/county/city/village reps are practically tripping over themselves to raise taxes and other costs on practically everyone and everything.

Chatka Ruggiero  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 6:15 PM

Hello Greg - the property is assessed every 3 yrs. You can file a complaint and get a reduction of the assessed valuation for 3 yrs. But the taxes actually paid are based on the taxing bodies which most likely increases every year. Vacancies are only a part of the complaint filed. Reductions granted are based on the assessor's value of the property as a whole. Even with vacancies, reductions are not always granted. A certain vacancy rate is considered normal.

Johanna Brocker from River Forest  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 4:09 PM

Bar Louis has terrible food and service. The drinks are ok. However, with glut of construction on Lake Street, no one can park. Heaven help you if you are trying to walk with a stroller or crutch. Oak Park is busying trying to be Chicago, Jr. Expensive housing, expensive taxes and expensive parking. No wonder the little guys are going out of business.

Drew Rein  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 3:41 PM

And, inexplicably, the Irish Shop survives.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 1:11 PM

Wait until the $15 an hour minimum wage goes into effect. There won't be any bars left. Real estate taxes don't change based on occupancy.

Gregg Kuenster from River Forest Village Trustee Candidate  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 12:15 PM

Hello Chatka.. Thanks for your inout. I know you have much more experience than I in real estate. That said, in the one experience I had the property owner paid 10 percent for three years of vacancy. Could you fill us in on how it normally works? Thank you

Chatka Ruggiero  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 11:58 AM

HOLD ON! Vacant commercial property is always taxed. The owner only gets a reduction IF a complaint is filed with the assessor's office. And this action is not guaranteed. Most often a further appeal needs to be made. And any reduction given rarely equals the actual loss. This is the norm, but Oak Park may have "special" deals with developers.

Gregg Kuenster  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 10:37 AM

Hello Brian. In the case of vacant commercial property, the land owner pays a greatly reduced amount of property tax. I believe it is around 10%. On new development, the owner pays zero percent until it is occupied. Property taxes are paid a year in arrears. I will defer to Ali ElSaffar the Village Assessor on the correctness of my statements. None the less ... Good Luck Oak Park in getting Retail in any NEW buildings.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 9:23 AM

@ Greg Kuenster: "No property tax is paid when the space is empty." Doesn't the property owner pay the Real Estate tax regardless if the store front is vacant or filled? The owner of an empty store front might be able to take an income tax loss if the store front is empty.

Gregg Kuenster from River Forest CPA Village Trustee Candidate  

Posted: February 9th, 2019 6:36 AM

OPRF will lose more bars, restaurants and small retail. The business model does not support a profitable equation. Bar Louis and the surrounding businesses pay $200 a day or more in Property Tax. Property Tax causes empty retail spaces. No Property tax is paid when the space is empty. The small retail model has failed locally. The bars are failing in Forest Park with lower property taxes. Developers do not consider profit from retail rental when building high rises. Empty store fronts are a cost of doing business. Empty store fronts are cheaper than renting the space for less than the property tax. Local residents are not prepared to pay ten dollars for a hamburger or ten dollars for a beverage. They are prepared to pay large amounts for overpriced clothing and cell phone service. When the business model supports a profitable equation, entrepreneurs will appear.

Bob Pawlowski  

Posted: February 8th, 2019 7:35 PM

Bar Louies have been closing around the country steadily for the last three years. So, it was just a matter of time before the OP location got hit. Now, the question is, can a business be found that can ride the trends and have a long and healthy business life in DTOP? There are quite a few vacancies down Lake as it is. I don't want to see the entire area go high-rise. But, at the same time, I don't want to see some trendy place that has the life expectancy of a carnival goldfish come in. How about a record store? Records are popular again. D'OH!

Marty Strode  

Posted: February 8th, 2019 6:46 PM

This woudl be a perfect space for a restaurant called SHAKE SHACK , like the one they have in Oak Brook near Nordstrom's.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: February 8th, 2019 5:13 PM

I'm sure contributing to the vacancy problem is the fact that all the high-density development in DTOP (and nearby) in the past 10 years has included RETAIL space at ground level; new, high-rent retail space, far more costly than what it replaced.. Look a bit to the east on Lake Street - the new District House development has a nice empty retail space on its ground floor, and right across the street the not-quite-so-new condo building (on the original Tasty Dog site) has a long-vacant retail space right at the corner.

Jim Kelly  

Posted: February 8th, 2019 4:07 PM

I wonder to what degree property owners have thought that Oak Park is a cash cow for renting retail space at high rates? Also, there are many locally-owned businesses that have survived for years. Could it be that they had better business plans that targeted real needs for enough people to stay in business?

Christine Vernon  

Posted: February 8th, 2019 3:53 PM

The argument for denser, taller buildings in Downtown Oak Park - that they will be the solution for bringing the population to DTOP, the live bodies - shoppers and customers - for help, to economically shore up the businesses in Downtown Oak Park and help them thrive and it has never solved the problem, never come to pass that the problem of not offering what people need. Don't know where we are at now, but in the 1970s, Oak Park was the most densely populated township in Northeastern Illinois according to NIPSC, the Northern Illinois Planning Commission. Berwyn and Cicero were the first and second in the most dense category... but not in that particular order. We have always had the shoppers in this location and the neighboring burbs, we just haven't had the products. Even if you factor in the change in merchandising, online shopping and less brick and mortar stores, Oak Park has never figured this keeping businesses alive gotten this right. In OP, we have lost the ability to get essential things for living in our Village, so people go outside of the Village to spend their money for these essentials. Alex Garcia got it right when he wrote "There are a striking number of vacancies on Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue. Village Officials should ask themselves why that is."

Carolyn Cullen  

Posted: February 8th, 2019 1:45 PM

We don't want to lose another restaurant we like! Given how hard it is to rent large spaces, I hope they don't force them out with that plan and then have no tenants.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: February 8th, 2019 10:33 AM

There are a striking number of vacancies on Lake Street and Oak Park Avenue. Village officials should ask themselves why that is.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 8th, 2019 9:21 AM

Given the high property taxes, and fees, it has to be difficult to do retail in Oak Park. The vacancies prove that is the case. The only possible saving grace will be the higher density of people, within walking distance, who will be living in the several new towers being added to downtown. The bigger question is that if we can't get retail to work on Lake Street, how do we expect to get it to work on Madison and why are we pouring millions into that?

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