After 16 years, R Place closes

Adjacent business owner buys bar, pot dispensary an option

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By Maria Maxham

After 16 years at 1527 S. Harlem Ave., neighborhood bar and restaurant R Place has closed its doors as the Milchhoefer family sold the building on Dec. 30. A prior sale of the bar was almost made in 2014, but the deal ultimately did not go through, in part because an attempt to transfer the liquor license to a new owner was unsuccessful.

R Place was known for beer specials but also food, including pizza and wings. The bar was also locally famous for hosting fundraisers, including former mayor Anthony Calderone's toy drive in 2018. 

On Dec. 23, the Milchhoefer family held a goodbye party at the bar, and friends and family who attended lamented the closing on Facebook. In the Build Forest Park Facebook group, loyal customers and friends expressed their sadness and talked about the loss of a true "townie" bar, and the many financial contributions R Place made to fundraisers around town.

Video gaming was also brought up in these online discussions, specifically that a rejection of video gaming by voters in a referendum took away an important source of income for bars in town. Although co-owner Ron Milchhoefer, Jr. did not respond to interview requests, he was an outspoken supporter of video gaming prior to the referendum that made it illegal in Forest Park. In April 2018 he commented on the topic to the Review.

"[Video gaming] has made us competitive; it's made our business worth more," said Milchhoefer. 

The property has been purchased by James Newsome, who owns American Security Services at 1515 S. Harlem as well as the adjacent lots, which he has used to expand parking. As a long time Forest Park business owner, he wanted to ensure that he had control over who his neighbor to the south would be.

In addition to leasing to a potential bar or restaurant, a recreational marijuana dispendary is also an option, said Newsome.

"I want to make sure something good goes in there," said Newsome about the old R Place building. "I have plenty of parking to offer, and I want to see a good business for Forest Park in that space."

Newsome says he takes pride in keeping his properties on Harlem Avenue well-landscaped and nicely maintained. "We're right on Harlem. People see us. We want to make sure we look good," he said.

Newsome is currently looking for business owners who want to lease the space for a bar or restaurant or, once zoning is finalized in Forest Park and licenses issued by the state, potentially a marijuana dispensary. That address, 1527 S. Harlem Ave. is in the B-2 or Community Shopping District, in which proposed zoning would list recreational marijuana dispensaries as conditional use, meaning a potential business would need to appear before and receive permission from both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the village council before being allowed to open. In this area, a dispensary, under the proposed zoning, would need to be at least 500 feet from a school or church.

The village council will vote on the zoning amendments from the Zoning Board of Appeals this month, and recreational marijuana dispensary licenses will be awarded in the spring. Illinois recreational marijuana dispensary applications were due to the state by 4 p.m. on Jan. 2, and a total of 75 licenses will be awarded. Results are expected by May 1.

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