Owner to close Elgin restaurant, citing dispute with Dream Hall landlord
Legit Dogs & Ice in downtown Elgin is shutting down at the end of the month in the latest bout of turmoil surrounding its landlord at Dream Hall.
Restaurant owner Matthew Habib announced Monday in a Facebook post that he decided to close the location in the basement of Dream Hall, 51 S. Grove Ave., on Aug. 31. Habib claims his landlord reneged on promises made in the lease, but Dream Hall owner Kevin Echevarria says the tenant was served an eviction notice.
Business has been strong in recent months, Habib told the Daily Herald, especially after Legit Dogs & Ice got permission from the Elgin City Council earlier this year to host concerts and events. But controversy with Echevarria and his partners, as well as issues with the building, have prompted Habib's decision to move out, he said.
"We have chosen to sever our ties in order to retain our reputation as a family-friendly, responsible and law-abiding business," the owners said in the Facebook post.
Echevarria said Legit Dogs & Ice hasn't paid rent since last September, even after Dream Hall offered financial relief by crediting a portion of their event liquor sales toward what they owe.
When the restaurant owners still didn't pay, he said, Dream Hall turned to eviction court "so that we can rent it or do something with the space."
However, Habib says Echevarria agreed to waive the rent for a certain amount of time while addressing concerns related to the building.
In the Facebook post, Legit Dogs & Ice claims the building lacks proper external signage, does not have a security wall and door, contains an inoperable elevator and has a malfunctioning grease trap. The restaurant owner says the landlord promised when the lease was signed to remedy the issues.
The restaurant owner also said Dream Hall operators have been withholding some of their earned profits and investments, among other allegations.
Echevarria says the he building has undergone numerous inspections and that Habib's claims are inaccurate.
"Dream (Hall) and myself have always operated with integrity, and we've always been an open book," he said.
The restaurant's departure is the most recent controversy involving Dream Hall, which aims to partner with entrepreneurs and food vendors to offer various culinary and entertainment experiences.
Another tenant, Elgin Area Taproom, moved out last December after Dream Hall operators filed a lawsuit claiming the establishment owner had not paid rent since it opened. Taproom owner Tyrrell Tomlin alleged Echevarria owed him money and was not adhering to the terms of his lease. They eventually settled Nov. 20.
Legit Dogs & Ice, which started as a food truck, has operated in Dream Hall about 18 months. Habib said he hopes to relocate elsewhere soon, but a new location has not been determined.
"While we (move out) with sadness and regret, we are also confident that this is the best thing for our business," the Facebook post said, "and we are optimistic about our future."
Echevarria says Dream Hall plans to release an official statement in response to Legit Dog & Ice's post, though most of the allegations will be worked out in court.