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Cocktail alleges conspiracy in suit
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

This article shared 7992 times since Wed Aug 10, 2011
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{NOTE This article updated on April 21, 2015]

Lakeview bar Cocktail is suing its landlord and two former employees for $10 million over an alleged conspiracy to ruin the bar's good name and put it out of business.

John "Geno" Zaharakis, who owns Cocktail, and general manager Dustin Hoffman filed suit July 29. The suit alleges that the building owner and management company worked with two former employees to tarnish the bar's reputation and oust Cocktail to open a new bar.

The suit names Robert Brumbaugh Jr., who has owned the building on 3359 N. Halsted since June of this year; Brumbaugh's company, 3357 Halsted LLC; David Sikora, Cocktail's former manager; Alexander Stoykov; and Key Management and Realty, Inc., the building's management company, which employs Stoykov.

According to the suit, Sikora and Brumbaugh allegedly told Cocktail customers that the bar was going out of business.

The suit claims that "on July 22, 2011, in a face-to-face meeting with Zaharakis and Hoffman, Brumbaugh stated that, unless Zaharakis and Cocktail voluntarily agreed to move out of the Premises and surrender possession of the Premises before the end of August 2011, he, Brumbaugh, intended to destroy Zaharakis financially and put Cocktail out of business so that he and Sikora could open their own bar on the Premises."

Brumbaugh did not respond immediately to a request to comment.

The suit further alleges that Sikora spat on and urinated on the building during peak business hours; stole and smashed a blender on the sidewalk in front of the bar; and publicly accused Hoffman of burning down Scarlet, the Halsted bar where Hoffman was a manager when a fire decimated the property in 2009.

Sikora declined to comment on the allegations.

The complaint accuses Stoykov of ruining Cocktail's relationship with its lender of 10 years, Capital Access Network, by telling the company that Cocktail was "a terrible tenant and that Cocktail was going to be evicted."

It also accuses Stoykov of delivering a false "ten days notice" to vacate the property on the 4th of July weekend in front of customers.

Stoykov could not be reached for comment. Key Management and Realty did not respond to requests to comment in time for publication.

Cocktail has lived at the corner of Roscoe and Halsted since 1995, when Zaharakis opened the bar. Brumbaugh is the bar's fourth landlord, said Zaharakis, adding that he had not had problems with landlords in the past.

Zaharakis said that he had wanted to purchase the building himself but that Brumbaugh beat him to it.

"Anything Rob asked of me … I complied with," Zaharakis told Windy City Times.

Zaharakis alleged that Brumbaugh would not allow him to hang a Pride month banner, as he had done in the past, and that he forced Cocktail to remove a historic sign advertising the bar on the side of the building.

Finally, the complaint accuses Brumbaugh, Stoykov and Sikora of making "false reports to the City of Chicago about untrue or grossly inflated building code violations, all in an attempt to disrupt Cocktail's business."

Zaharakis estimates that Cocktail has been visited between three to four times by both the Department of Buildings and the Department of Public Health, respectively in recent months. He also said the Fire Department has been to Cocktail at least once.

The suit totals damages at $2.5 million and asks for an addition $7.5 million in punitive damages.

"We've lost quite a bit of our regulars," Zaharakis said. "It's been incredibly hard on my family. It's been incredibly hard on my staff."

This article shared 7992 times since Wed Aug 10, 2011
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