Elk Grove Village buys shuttered Phoenix nightclub for $1.35 million

  • The former Phoenix Bar & Nightclub, which closed late last year after 37 years in business, is being sold by the owner of the Admiral Theatre in Chicago to Elk Grove Village.

      The former Phoenix Bar & Nightclub, which closed late last year after 37 years in business, is being sold by the owner of the Admiral Theatre in Chicago to Elk Grove Village. Eric Peterson | Staff Photographer, 2018

Posted6/18/2020 5:23 AM

The owner of the Admiral Theatre in Chicago is selling the shuttered Phoenix Bar & Nightclub for $1.35 million to Elk Grove Village, which plans to demolish the bar and hold on to the land for future redevelopment.

Sam Cecola, owner of the famous Chicago strip club, took over the long-standing LGBTQ bar at 1932 E. Higgins Road in early 2018, but the bar abruptly closed last November after 37 years in business.


Cecola, of Barrington, and his attorney didn't respond to requests for comment Wednesday about the decision to sell the bar or its earlier closure.

But Mayor Craig Johnson said village officials were happy to take the deal as a natural extension of their redevelopment efforts nearby at Higgins and Busse roads and the Elk Grove Technology Park just down the road.

"They reached out and talked to us and said they wanted to sell it. We're always looking for ways to improve that corridor and have it developed," Johnson said. "We're looking forward to having another piece in the future puzzle of what's going to happen there."

There are no set plans for the 1.5-acre Phoenix site, Johnson said, beyond some type of future business use in what remains a busy commercial corridor. For now, the village is hiring McHenry-based HR Green for $56,000 to handle engineering and management for demolition of the building and site restoration.

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Approval of that contract and the real estate deal by village trustees on Tuesday came on the same night they set plan commission public hearings for June 29 on the proposed annexation of two nearby properties to the village: McDonald's, at 1912 E. Higgins Road, and Jiffy Lube, at 1907 Oakton St.

The village board approvals represent the latest developments in a long-running annexation saga punctuated by a legal dispute with a local developer, and they brought sharp rebuke Wednesday from his attorney.

"Elk Grove Village's tactics in purchasing the former Phoenix nightclub, a popular LGBTQ venue, and annexing other local businesses, like the Jiffy Lube and McDonald's locations, only further validate our client's position that the village is a bully who will stop at nothing to get its way, even at the expense of small businesses just trying to survive in this tough economic climate," said Kim Walberg, who represents developer Mario Gullo.

Gullo, president of George Gullo Development Corp. at 2050 E. Higgins Road, sued the village in 2019 to stop its forcible annexation of 58 acres, which includes many gravel parking lots he rents out to trucking firms. Elk Grove's formal written response to Gullo's lawsuit is due within days, before depositions and an eventual ruling by a Cook County judge.


Walberg said Gullo brought the suit to protect his private property rights, but Johnson reiterated the village was just cleaning up its borders. He added Wednesday that McDonald's and Jiffy Lube are voluntarily seeking annexation to receive village water, police and fire services.

The village's assemblage of parcels around the Gullo property doesn't allow the village to forcibly annex that land, or otherwise impact the litigation, Walberg said.

A closing on the Phoenix site is scheduled for June 26.

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