In another era, the Pines was a glamorous dining establishment, serving steak and lobster. But today, neighbors say, three times a week it turns into a rowdy dance joint, whose patrons yell and litter late into the night.
About 40 residents of the 800 blocks of Hannah and Thomas avenues met with village officials and the bar’s owner, May 3, to talk about neighborhood frustrations about patrons of the Pines/Oak Leaf Lounge restaurant at 7412 Harrison St.
In a letter to the village, neighbors complained about the aftermath of events hosted Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at the bar.
“The Oak Leaf Lounge and its patrons make our neighborhood unbearable as their comings and goings infringe on our otherwise quiet and peaceful blocks,” the letter said. It was accompanied by 33 signatures.
According to the letter, arguments and booming car radios at closing time are disturbing. Alleged urination by patrons and litter, specifically liquor bottles, tossed into yards are also upsetting. The neighbors complained parking was taken up by bar patrons.
Attending the meeting were Mayor Anthony Calderone, Village Administrator Tim Gillian, Forest Park Police Chief Jim Ryan, Deputy Chief Tom Aftanas, the FPPD midnight watch commander and Detective Sgt. Mike Keating, according to Gillian. Also in attendance were Oak Leaf owner Tony Kaldis and his wife Maria, who live in Elmhurst.
“We’re conveying to our patrons to be respectful when they’re going into the residential neighborhood,” said Kaldis, later. “Unfortunately that’s the nature of the bar. I have to continue running it to help pay my bills.”
Gillian said, “Residents are sometimes reluctant to call police. They feel it’s not that big a deal. Or they don’t want to have their name associated with it.
“We made it as clear as possible we want them to call. Even if it’s five times a night you have to call us. That helps us create a paper trail of occurrences tied to a specific business.” He noted that police were stretching shifts till midnight to better patrol and that a dedicated squad would be focusing on the Harrison Street neighborhood. New trash cans have appeared. Gillian said the mayor and he would personally be dropping by periodically.
The Pines “was one of the premier steakhouses in Chicagoland at one time,” said Gillian. Two years ago, owner Kaldis, along with Constantine Fourlas, and Tim Locopoulos, approached the Plan Commission with a proposal for a multi-story senior residence on the site, funded in part by the Chicago-based non-profit, Heartland Alliance. The proposal called for 98 rent-assisted units, but it was rejected by the commission, partly because the plan allotted fewer than 70 parking spots.
“The developers were trying to rush us through a project that needed much more planning,” remembered Gillian. “They were hoping to take advantage of grant money from the state that was only available twice a year.”
Kaldis said the problem with the 2010 development project was communication. “We didn’t convey the message very well to the residents. That was our fault. People at the [May 3] meeting thought we were going to build condos. I would be willing to look into it again if I knew there was enough support for it.”