Bottled Blonde lawyer’s drug arrest delays hearing with city

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Bottled Blonde at 504 N. Wells St. | Mitchell Armentrout/Sun-Times

A 72-year-old attorney who represented Bottled Blonde was arrested on drug charges last week in Michigan, delaying the maligned River North establishment’s latest disciplinary hearing with city officials.

Timothy Fitzgerald was booked Friday into the Berrien County Jail in southwest Michigan, where he faces two felony counts of delivering or manufacturing marijuana, and one felony count of maintaining a drug house, a jail official said.

Fitzgerald — who has represented Bottled Blonde over the last four months as it faces scrutiny from the city over whether it has violated terms of its liquor license by operating primarily as a bar instead of a restaurant — was still being held at the jail as of Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday morning, the restaurant had been scheduled for its final hearing with the Local Liquor Control Commission before a city officer makes a recommendation on whether it gets to keep its liquor license.

Instead, in the wake of Fitzgerald’s arrest, Bottled Blonde’s owners asked for a delay as they search for new representation.

City officials agreed to push the hearing back to Sept. 26, Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said.

Bottled Blonde’s owners have not responded to multiple requests for comment since their latest round of city hearings began in June.

Since opening in 2015 at 504 N. Wells St., the restaurant has drawn the ire of neighborhood residents complaining of drunken patrons fighting and urinating in alleys, with loud music ringing into the wee hours of the morning.

City inspectors agreed with the residents last year that Bottled Blonde was operating more like a nightclub than as the pizzeria it had a license for,according to records from the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

The restaurant was allowed to stay open only when it agreed to clean up its act with a “revised liquor license plan of operation,” promising to put up more trash cans, keep the sidewalk clean and limit a single-file line outside to 25 people. In that agreement, city officials emphasized that alcohol sales were to be “only incidental to the food service.”

The restaurant even enlisted the services of former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to help tighten up their security plan.

But in May, city investigators determined once again that the Bottled Blonde was still running primarily as a bar, leading to a new round of disciplinary hearings.

About the same time, the restaurant was the subject of criticism on social media for a dress code prohibiting 30 different clothing styles including “excessively baggy” clothing, plain white T-shirts and Jordan gym shoes.

The dress code, widely viewed as discriminatory against people of color, is not an issue in the restaurant’s case with the city.

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