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Fischman Liquors and Tavern
Photograph: Martha WilliamsFischman Liquors and Tavern

A rent dispute is forcing Fischman Liquors to close

Zach Long
Written by
Zach Long

Just a few weeks after Fischman Liquors and Tavern celebrated its 20th anniversary, the owners of the Jefferson Park bar and liquor store have announced that they will not be renewing their lease at 4780 N Milwaukee Avenue. Gus and Shanna Karamaniolas—who own and operate the bar—have been locked in a legal dispute regarding the rent being charged by the building's owner. "The going rate per square foot in Jefferson Park Township is between $10–$15," Gus says. "We are paying $25 [per square foot]."

While Gus and Shanna own Fischman Liquors, the building in which it is housed is owned by Gus's uncle, Jimmy Karamaniolas, who currently resides in Greece (he could not be reached for comment). According to Gus the couple renegotiated its lease as the result of a lawsuit about three years ago, the terms of which increased its rent and forced the couple to assume responsibility for property taxes and building maintenance costs. Gus admits the settlement they negotiated was less than ideal. "Everything happened so unexpectedly and the process was so quick that we were thrown into it and we just wanted our business back," he says.

Attempts to negotiate a more affordable rent with the attorney who represents the building's owner have been unsuccessful, according to Gus. "We were confident our lawyers would be able to talk some sense into them," he says. "Apparently they would rather have the building empty."

Gus and Shanna's lease on the Fischman Liquors building expired on April 30, 2016, but the couple negotiated a three-month extension to keep the bar and liquor store open through July 17. The business's final day will be commemorated with one "last hoorah with all our amazing customers, friends and family," according to Gus. The staff was notified of the impending closure earlier today.

When asked about the possibility of Fischman Liquors reopening in another location, Gus is hopeful. "We would love to open up a new operation, but it will take some time and lots of effort," he says. "We have a place that we would love to convert into a bar and restaurant."

Known for its regular tap takeovers and annual events like the Kegs for Kidneys fundraiser, Fischman Liquors and Tavern is an institution that will be missed by Jefferson Park residents and Chicago craft beer lovers alike.

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