Mineola Hotel and Lounge back open
Fox Lake officials reopened the Mineola Hotel and Lounge Thursday after owners of the legendary hotel produced a report from a certified building engineer showing the hotel was structurally safe and not in danger of falling down.
Pete Jakstas, owner of the 135-year-old Mineola Hotel and Lounge at 91 Cora St. in Fox Lake, said a state-certified structural engineer toured the facility Thursday and put a stamp of approval on a report showing the Mineola is structurally sound.
About an hour after he turned the certified report over to the village, Jakstas said, Fox Lake Building Commissioner Frank Urbina and Fox Lake Police Chief Mike Behan pulled down the red condemnation tags that were stuck to the side of the Mineola.
"(The engineer) toured the place, said the building has some water damage and needs a lot of paint, but said structurally, there is nothing wrong with it," he said. "It's like I have been saying, I would not let my own children into the building if I ever thought the building wasn't structurally sound."
Behan confirmed the tavern on the first floor of the old wooden structure has been reopened but could not say what was in the report from the structural engineer.
Attempts to reach Urbina Thursday night were unsuccessful.
Urbina said in a statement on April 14 that he had the safety of customers in mind when he condemned the 135-year-old Mineola Hotel and shut down the lounge still operating on the first floor of the structure.
Urbina said the Mineola, built in 1884 on the shores of the Chain O' Lakes, received an annual building inspection on April 11 and the inspector cited numerous issues with the roof, windows, siding and mold inside the structure.
Through broken windows on the outside, the inspector saw saturated wood and plaster, Urbina said one week ago.
He also said the wood saturated from years of exposure made the building a safety risk for any customer entering the facility.
After the building was condemned, Jakstas had 30 days to either bring in a structural engineer to outline a plan for repairs or arrange for the building's demolition.
However, aside from cosmetic issues and some water damage, the engineer said the building was safe, Jakstas said.
"We reopened (Thursday night) and will continue to operate knowing the building is safe," he said.
He would not comment on whether he will file a lawsuit against the village for the business he lost while being shut down.
The Mineola is the fifth structure to be condemned in the village of Fox Lake within the last five years.
The Marina Motel on Route 12, the Aquarium Bar on Forest Drive and the abandoned Big Hollow School on Route 12 were all condemned and closed following building inspections. The fourth -- Studio One on Nippersink Drive -- was initially condemned in 2007 but sold to new owners, repaired and reopened under the new name Blueberry Hill Tavern.
The Mineola has long been the location of the annual Chain O' Lakes fireworks on the Fourth of July, as well as numerous public and private events.
It was also one of the many locations in Fox Lake and Ingleside where reputed mob boss Al Capone would spend his vacations.