Judge extends hours for R. Kelly’s studio

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R. Kelly faces eviction from a Near West Side warehouse if he doesn’t pay $173,000 in back rent and other fees. | File photos

A Cook County judge on Friday modified her order and opted to allow access to the Near West Side warehouse space rented by R. Kelly between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The ruling from Judge Patrice Ball-Reed came a day after attorneys for Kelly filed a motion that asked for access between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. The building has been off-limits except for between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. since Jan. 22.

Kelly’s attorneys argued that those “bankers’ hours” were not conducive to their client’s creative process.

Before modifying her order, Ball-Reed, with a hint of sarcasm, said: “I’m sorry that his muse doesn’t operate during the hours.”

The judge restricted access to the building after city officials found dozens of building code violations during an inspection Jan. 16. The city contends that the building is being used as a residence, despite it being zoned only for commercial use.

During the initial inspection and during another on Wednesday, inspectors found two beds inside. Kelly’s attorneys said both had been removed by Thursday.

In an affidavit submitted Thursday, Kelly said that he hasn’t used the studio since the judge imposed the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. operating hours. He said that Ball-Reed’s restriction — which is “tantamount to a stop-work order” — has also hurt his employees’ ability to make money.

“The tenant’s made the choice not to work,” Ball-Reed said. “That’s got nothing to do with me.”

Echoing Kelly’s sentiments outside the courtroom Friday, Melvin Sims, one of Kelly’s attorneys, said it was impossible to dictate when inspiration would strike.

“You can’t put a schedule on when a moment of beautiful music comes into your soul,” Sims said.

Attorneys for Kelly said Friday that they’ve made great strides to get the building at 219 N. Justine — where Kelly is the only tenant — up to code, including retaining an architect to draw up plans for repairs and modifications.

Among the violations found were a host of fire hazards, a failure to maintain the integrity of the building’s walls, as well as two bathtubs without drain plugs that had collected “waste and over flows.”

The next status hearing in the case is set for May 2.

The warehouse has come under scrutiny in recent weeks since the airing of a documentary series on Lifetime that detailed a series of allegations of sexual impropriety by Kelly — many involving underage girls. He has repeatedly denied the allegations and has not been charged with any crimes since he was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

The owner of the building, Midwest Commercial Funding, sued Kelly last year, alleging he owed more than $170,000 in back rent and other fees.

Last week, Kelly’s attorneys filed a motion arguing that the violations cited by the city fall squarely on Midwest Commercial Funding and the previously agreed upon eviction order should be modified.

Court records show that Kelly had until Jan. 21 to pay $166,981 to the owner of the property. Additionally, he must also pay $6,122 in attorneys’ fees and $780 in court costs. It remains unclear if any of those payments were made.

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