Relationship between Chicago Cubs, rooftop club owners crumbling


There’s no secret that over the last year the relationship between the Chicago Cubs and the surrounding rooftop owners was on the decline, but now the dislike is starting to spill out into public view. The Cubs decided to move forward with their renovation plans, even with the threat of lawsuits after winning the right to erect the new signage.

Jim Spencer, a Lakeview resident for 20 years that heads the East Lakeview Neighbors association can see the decline.

"“It’s terribly contentious, he said. The worst that I’ve ever seen it.” h/t Jared S. Hopkins and Ameer Sachdev, Chicago Tribune"

At a meeting of the Commission of Chicago Landmarks, which is who approved the signs, a lawyer for a group of the rooftop clubs accused a team official of attempting to intimidate the owners into selling to the Cubs at below market value.

"“Crane Kenney repeatedly told rooftop owners that … he could now block their views and put them out of business,” attorney Tom Moore said of the team’s president of business operations. “Alternatively, he said that he would buy their businesses at fire sale prices — take it or leave it.”"

George Loukas, who owns three rooftop clubs–including the Cubby Bear–took a more tactful approach to the situation. “The Cubs are holding all the cards, they have the leverage.”

A spokesman for the Ricketts family acknowledged the team is attempting to buy some of the surrounding clubs, but said the notion of a “fire sale” is hyperbole.

More from Cubbies Crib

"“Mr. Moore zealously advocates for his clients, but the Cubs and the Ricketts family are doing exactly what the team chairman said he would do last summer,” Dennis Culloton said. “The team spent a year negotiating with rooftops and amid threats of litigation won the right to put up signs. Ultimately, all of the discussions have involved the team discussing values far in excess of what North Side real estate would justify.”"

The rooftops have been a part of Wrigley Field for many years. It all started with a few chairs and a cooler of beer by a few neighbors. Gradually the surrounding rooftops went from a casual gathering to businesses catering to larger groups.

In 2004, the Cubs decided to make it a joint venture, with rooftop clubs handing over 17 percent of their revenue to the team. That has translated recently to $3 million to $4 million annually. Kenney helped create the contract, which came by way of a lawsuit filed by the club, then owned by the Tribune Co., alleging the rooftops were infringing on the teams copyright.

Some rooftop owners, such as Loukas, hasn’t backed away from engaging in discussions of a sale for his properties.

"“All I know is if the money is right for me, I would take it,” he said. “It’s a tough scenario to be in, but I’m looking for a fair price.”"

Mark Schenkler, owner of a rooftop club at 1044 W. Waveland Ave, sees it differently.

"“They have the mindset they can do whatever they want.I’m getting my business and livelihood taken away.”"

Some of the owners feel the fight is tilted in the Cubs favor due to the team having access to detailed financial information, per their contract. Owner Tom Ricketts has acknowledged they’re still hoping to find middle ground, but it seems that ship has sailed.

The Cubs need the ability to operate their business in the manner they see fit, not what the surrounding club owners deem proper. I’m aware the Cubs are bound into a contract, which I never quite understood, but it exists. The fact is, the rooftop owners are in my mind “freeloading” on the Cubs. Their “livelihood” is charging for a ticket for food, beer, etc. to watch a product that they don’t provide.

I grew up near Chicago, and I love Wrigleyville. But enough is enough. Going to a Cubs game isn’t about the experience anymore. Fans want to see a winner. It’s time to break contract, deal with the backlash, and do what it takes to put a winning product on the field. The Cubs haven’t been on a level playing field with much of the league due to the fact that they operate out of a “museum” essentially that the club owners don’t want changed.

Just remember, this is a Major League organization, and the neighborhood has dictated how many night games they could play, now it’s trying to do the same with the signage it puts up because it “interferes” with their business of making money on the Cubs business.

I’ll take a winner in Chicago over watching a game from across the street, but that’s just me I guess.