The Hideaway, 7301 Roosevelt Rd., once known as a lively though slightly decrepit dive bar, has been closed since April 2014 when the village shut it down due to over 40 internal and external building code violations. Former owner George Grivas of Franklin Park died two years later, and with nobody to inherit the property, it’s sat at the corner of Roosevelt Road and Marengo Avenue, boarded up, but not, according to some residents, empty.

At least one resident who lives nearby said it’s not only an eyesore, but a haven for rats.

Daniel Riley lives on the 1100 block of Marengo Avenue, and he said between the Hideaway, the abandoned Pit Zone Barbecue location at 7247 Roosevelt Rd. and the American Postal Workers Union building at 7243 Roosevelt Rd., the rats are overwhelming the neighborhood, so much so that he’s spent thousands of dollars trying to protect his own property from rodents.

“I used to be real proud to tell people I lived in Forest Park,” Riley said in an interview on July 12. “But now I’m embarrassed and ashamed.” Riley’s lived in town since 1991, and he said he’s never seen rodent problems this bad before.

He said he’s called Mayor Rory Hoskins and Director of Public Health and Safety Steve Glinke about the rat situation several times, but he’s been told there are no signs of rat infestation inside the Hideaway.

“I challenge the mayor and Steve Glinke and John Doss [director of public works] and anyone else that makes decisions for the village to set up chairs, any time between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., and we’ll sit there and watch for rats. You’ll see,” said Riley.

The Review wanted to see. So we went out the night of July 12 around 8:30 p.m. With a flashlight, we walked around the Hideaway and the other two properties mentioned by Riley. Within less than 10 minutes, we’d seen four rats. One ran inside a hole in the Hideaway’s north wall. The others were along the sides of the old Pit Zone and Postal Workers Building, behind which the stench of garbage was overwhelming.

Of course, driving home, a rat ran across Circle Avenue, and rats can be seen in many places throughout the village.

Still, we called Glinke, who said the village would “double up” on rodent control in the area. The garbage in back of the Postal Workers Building will be cleared out, and the village will make a second call to the company that’s supposed to empty the grease waste behind the old Pit Zone. If that doesn’t happen soon, public works will take care of it.

Glinke said he’d have Smithereen, the rat control service the village uses, come out to inspect for rats and put out more traps.

Both Pit Zone and the Postal Workers Building aren’t currently in use. In May 2019 the water was shut off at the Postal Workers Building due to nonpayment. Glinke has reached out to the National American Postal Workers Union to get a status on the property. Pit Zone stopped paying for water in March 2020.

Glinke said for years there’d been “no clear path forward” for the village to deal with the Hideaway. Recently, because of the “slow deterioration of the structure itself,” the village had begun seeking legal advice on how to gain the title to the property to demolish it. But the legal path to do so, said Glinke, was complicated, especially since the owner was dead and there appeared to be no legal heirs.

He said he’s been inside in the past few weeks and saw no typical signs of a rat infestation, such as burrowing or chewed wires. But despite that, said Glinke, the village will step up efforts in the area to try to reduce the rat population.

And, perhaps soon, the Hideaway itself will no longer be an issue. The Cook County Land Bank Association (CCLBA) was awarded the tax certificate for the property through the country treasurer’s 2019 scavenger sale of delinquent property taxes. The current owners, said the CCLBA, “have until 9/5/2020 to bring the delinquent taxes current, unless there is an extension of the redemption date due to COVID-19. Once the redemption period has passed, the Land Bank will evaluate the property and determine next steps.”

The CCLBA, formed in 2013, operates largely through grant funding and revenues from transactions. Part of its mission statement is “to promote redevelopment and reuse of vacant, abandoned, foreclosed or tax-delinquent properties.” And they’ve got their sights set on the Hideaway.