Shuttered LGBTQ bar in Elk Grove Village to face the wrecking ball
What once was a destination for the suburban LGBTQ community -- a long-standing bar on Higgins Road -- will soon become a 1.5-acre grass lot primed for future development by Elk Grove Village.
Fencing surrounds the shuttered Phoenix Bar & Nightclub at 1932 E. Higgins Road in preparation for its scheduled demolition the week of Oct. 12.
It'll mark the final chapter for the nightclub, originally known as Hunters before it was rebranded as Phoenix. It closed abruptly last November after 37 years in business. Years ago, the location was home to a Beef 'N' Barrel restaurant.
Elk Grove Village closed on the property this summer after paying $1.35 million to its most recent owner, Sam Cecola, the Barrington businessman who is owner of the Admiral Theatre strip club in Chicago.
Mayor Craig Johnson said Cecola and his business partners had plans to renovate the bar after acquiring it in 2018, but they never pursued those plans.
After the bar closed last year, Cecola tried selling to a neighboring property owner, but the deal fell through, Johnson said. His representatives reached out to village officials to gauge their interest in the property, and they struck a deal.
In deciding to close the bar, the previous owner cited numerous issues with the building and code violations that needed to be fixed, Johnson said.
At the same time, village officials have been eyeing redevelopment as part of their vision for more commercial growth in and around the massive village industrial park.
"We have no plans at this time for it," Johnson said of the Phoenix site. "We're just making it a green field. We'll grass it over and wait and see what comes along."
The village is paying Chicago-based Green Demolition Contractors $91,500 to tear down the old building. Officials also hired McHenry-based HR Green for $56,000 to handle engineering and management of the demolition and site restoration.
Meanwhile, Johnson and other village officials are still battling local developer Mario Gullo in court as part of an annexation dispute involving many of his nearby properties on Higgins Road.
In June, when Elk Grove officials inked the contract for the Phoenix bar, Gullo attorney Kim Walberg called the village "a bully who will stop at nothing to get its way," as village officials previously tried to forcibly annex the Phoenix and other sites until Gullo sued.
Village officials have maintained they were just trying to clean up their borders.
Johnson also has tried to clear up misconceptions that the village closed the Phoenix club.
"We had nothing against the people that were patronizing the location," Johnson said.
"If we owned it and it was still operational, it would have still been operational. ... (Cecola) made the decision to close it, not us."