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Article updated: 5/14/2013 7:24 AM

BlackFinn buyer has Naperville mayor's endorsement

By Justin Kmitch

Is a BlackFinn by any other name still a BlackFinn? Several Naperville officials don't think so.

Everyone from the mayor to police chief to the head of the chamber of commerce says local businessman Jim Bergeron's pending purchase and takeover of the downtown BlackFinn American Saloon can only benefit both the city and the business.

"Once (Bergeron) gets in there, it's not going to be like the BlackFinn of old. He's going to cheer up the town," said Pradel, who also serves as the city's liquor commissioner. "It'll be a change for the better. If Jimmy's word is valid, he's going to change it for the better."

Bergeron recently came before the liquor commission seeking a liquor license and late-night permit for the establishment because licenses and permits are specific to business owners and locations.

Bergeron as recently as May 7 denied BlackFinn, in its present configuration, was closing. On Monday, he declined to comment about taking over the business "until all of the 'i's are dotted and 't's are crossed."

Pradel said Bergeron discussed a plan to rename the bar and turn the emphasis from alcohol to food and catering.

Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike Evans said he's confident Bergeron will figure out the right mix for the site.

"Jimmy knows the history of the location and he'll do a good job to find a brand and strategy that will work in that location. He's well aware of how consumer demand drives things," Evans said. "The chamber is fully committed to support Jimmy. He's a trusted advocate and I think he will do a great job."

Bergeron already owns the site and has previously run a pizza restaurant and an Italian restaurant, Tessa's, in that location. He also owns downtown's Jimmy's Grill. Pradel said there has been no mention of whether Bergeron will keep and operate both locations.

Pradel said he doesn't expect Bergeron to reconfigure the bar but expects him to "make better use of both great kitchens" to reverse the current ratio of 60 percent alcohol sales and 30 percent food sales.

During Thanksgiving week last year, BlackFinn surrendered its late-night liquor permit for three nights and paid a $1,000 fine as a culmination of several liquor code violations and violent activities. The city also required BlackFinn to install security cameras and use an electronic ID checker at the door.

Police Chief Robert Marshall said he has "complete faith" Bergeron can turn around the bar's reputation.

"Jim has run one of our most cooperative establishments in the city and has helped us with several initiatives to improve downtown safety," Marshall said. "If he has a plan, I'm sure he'll follow through and make this work."

Pradel said Bergeron has already taken over management of BlackFinn until the city council approves the new late-night permit, The complete transition, however, could take as long as three months.

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