Most stolen stuff returned to Toby Keith's in Rosemont
Most of the memorabilia and inventory taken from the now-closed Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Rosemont have been found or returned, the bar's manager said Friday.
A day after General Manager Larry Vanni accused workers of stealing autographed memorabilia, liquor, signs, statues and barrels during the bar's last night Wednesday, just about everything is back, Vanni said.
Vanni believes the thefts were prompted after employees read a Daily Herald story about the bar's imminent closure, and the new tenants the village had lined up for the location. The village of Rosemont had filed an eviction suit against bar owner Boomtown Entertainment over back rent, property taxes and sales taxes, and officials wanted the bar out before its Dec. 31 lease was to expire.
For safety reasons, Vanni decided to close the country-themed megabar for good at 2 p.m. Thursday, even though attorneys had agreed in court earlier that day the bar could keep operating until Oct. 31.
However, by Friday afternoon, employees had brought back most of the missing items. Others were found in the bar or scattered about the nearby entertainment district and parking garage.
Rosemont police also recovered some items during the course of their investigation, Vanni said.
Mayor Brad Stephens said no arrests or charges are expected.
Some of the items that were returned or found include autographed Toby Keith guitars, an autographed Duncan Keith Blackhawks jersey, $3,000 worth of validated parking garage tickets, two 7-foot-tall Jack Daniel's plastic statues, Jack Daniel's display wooden barrels and a host stand sign.
Vanni says they're still looking for two American flags that were on display in the bar after being flown in Iraq.
Vanni and his managers were in the bar Friday afternoon taking inventory of food and liquor, as they clean up and prepare to hand over the keys to the village in two weeks.
He said they plan to donate $9,600 in dry goods and frozen food, including steaks, burgers, french fries and produce, to a local food pantry.
Some 170 full- and part-time employees are out of a job and are expected to get their final checks in the mail. Many have gone to social media to express frustration with the bar's management.
The Rosemont Toby Keith's is one of several across the country that have closed this year, many for failing to pay rent or taxes. As many as 20 locations had been opened by the Phoenix, Arizona-based chain since 2009, but only two are left. Those are in Michigan and Massachusetts.
Attorney Audrey Mense, representing Boomtown in court during an eviction hearing Thursday, said individuals in the company have been removed for wrongdoing, and officials are trying to get the company back on its feet.
Boomtown CEO Frank Capri told the judge by speaker phone he believes his original long-term lease with Rosemont was wrongfully terminated last year by the village and replaced with a one-year lease for 2015.
Village officials announced this week plans to replace Toby Keith's bar with another country-inspired venue, a joint venture of Joe's Bar on Weed Street and Lettuce Entertain You's Bub City.
The new tenants are expected to tour the 32,900-square-foot bar/restaurant space once Toby Keith's leaves, then make renovations. The new venue could open by next spring.