South Loop: Don't mess with Mayor Daley's eggs

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Mayor Daley is planning to put the kibosh on the National Vietnam Veterans Museum's proposed rent-to-own sale of the building at 1801 S. Indiana to Black Orchid Supper Club
If the city gets control of the property ...

it will be turned into a community center and save Cafe Society, Daley's neighborhood breakfast spot, from eviction. The owner Jorge Afanador — Uncle George to regulars — squeeled with glee at the news.
"Oh my God, this is wonderful," he said. "This is so perfect."

While city planning department spokeswoman Connie Buscemi insists the ordinance aimed at buying back the building is aimed at keeping the space from falling into private hands, I wonder if the mayor's breakfast plans had something to do with it. Uncle George serves the mayor fluffy eggs and cappuccino.

He's a guy who goes by his gut, if you know what I'm saying.

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Don't underestimate the impact of the residents and media bringing out the dirt well before this had a chance to be approved. Had this been silently presented, the city would have been tryng to justify through some obscure ruling why they allowed this. The National Vietnam Art Organization had become their own worst enemy; much of the coverage came as they tried to move Cafe Society out by 'Brute Force', posing people to ask more questions about plans, bidders, donations, and their ties. This was all done without the Alderman of the 2nd Ward having a clue; Bob Fioretti was the only guy to step forward to help and offer advice.

This is just an example of the shady stuff going on behind the scenes on many of these development deals. It is also a great example how citizens and media can work together to make a positive impact on our neighborhoods.

Dear Editor,
I am writing this comment on behalf of my Chinese tenants who live in my house. They were not happy with your correspondent-reporter Michael Sneed's report that the gunman was a Chinese national before it was verified by police or other government authorities. I understand their feelings. I do not know what you can do about it, but i do hope you will commit less mistakes as possile in the future.



I find it more than a little disturbing that once again just after re-election Mayor Daley is choosing to attempt a midnight raid. Mayor Daley’s newly introduced ordinance to take over the building housing the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum and turn it into a community center benefiting only the Mayor and his neighbors is a slap in the face of our Nation’s most maligned group of veterans – Vietnam Veterans.

For the past ten years the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum has provided much needed therapeutic rehabilitation to our Vietnam veterans through the expression of art they create. The art exhibited in the museum is emotional, moving and provides all visitors with a sense of what these true American Heroes still go through each day.

Now that the South Loop – Mayor Daley’s neighborhood – is a trendy neighborhood, Mayor Daley wants to kick our Veterans to the curb and take back a building that is meant to be an art gallery for veterans that has been there long before the new cookie-cutter condominiums. The plan to hold additional corporate events in the museum’s exhibition space does nothing but increase national and international exposure for the museum and is in keeping with its mission and agreements with the city. What’s next – move Soldier Field, because a new neighbor doesn’t like the smell of hot dogs in the air?

Mayor Daley, I don’t care where you eat your eggs – but the next time you get to the Vietnam Veterans Art Museum for breakfast, stick your head in to the exhibit space and see what a wonderful gem the museum is for the entire city to appreciate and stop treating our Vietnam Veterans like they are Meigs Field. – Dorian Dickinson

Response to Dorian Dickinson - it is sad that the mission for those who needed, got squandered by the ones they were supposed to trust, their own Board.
I go there 3-4 times a year, and every time, the lights are
off, no one is there, etc. Not once have I or the guests I brought ever received a mailing for events or programs

IT would be nice if the works were displayed with the Museum of Contemporary Art, where it would be displayed for more to see and appreciate. Other issues that need to be discussed:

1. Who said the Veterans Art Organization is getting kicked out?
The NVVAM can still remain as renters. The organization
is just not equipped survive by managing assets. They were
sucking their one asset dry, the building, acting as if it
were an ATM card. Note the condition of the building as it
was not being maintained. In reading the article in the
Reader, even after getting $2MM in city assistance plus the
building, they were still over $600,000 in debt and sinking
This will end the organizations financial problems. They can
start with a clean slate.

2. This is not on the Mayor; he went over the call of duty to
get the building and money for the NVVAM to suceed. You should
be blamming the Board Members who squandered away
over $3 Million with buddies and family members. You do
realize the it was reported that previous board was
investigated by Govt. Athorities don't you? You do realize
many of the original artist had already jumped ship and took
their work elsewhere or had to sue to get it back?

3. Black Orchid - This is not about corporate events, this
is about a greedy developer (who owns Black Orchid?), who
wants to go beyond "corporate events", with an eye on
complete take over of the property.
The deal for the night club with Black Orchid would have put
them in even a worse fate in a few years.

4. Other Proposals - The NVVAM board received plenty of other
Not-For-Profit proposals, as well as receiving requests from
others including education institutions that wanted to
share space. Maybey you should ask why the Board chose to
ignore those other options, and focus in on one bidder only?

5. Tenants - you should also be asking the Board why they
attempted to evict a fellow Veteran tenant, and allowed
rediculous behavior including harrassment?

in response to that last little bit written by tom

i think alot of important things are being left out of the story

it may be worth noting that mr afanador has troubles paying his incredibly low rent

and have you seen the pictures of chicken, used in the food he makes, thawing in a cardboard box in a closet, along side five gallon buckets of sheetrock, paint, and cleaning supplies? (not to mention coats!)

some things to think about - there have been numerous stories by the local papers, but the stories, from mr afanador's perspective, do not match up.

something is very fishy with cafe society - maybe its the mold that ate its way through their walls, and in to the neighboring bathroom?

Nice try Tom - Chicken in plastic, on ice, in a box. Why don't you tell the rest of the story yourself. The one where, the Museum manager, opened the boxes himself, staged them, and then took pictures and posted them around the building as harrassment. How stupid is that, to discriminate against a tenant, and a fellow veteran. Or how about the one where he calls them vulgur names. How about telling us how the board laughs this one off?

How about filling us in on the FBI investigation a few years back into the board activities? Or how about how the board members are scurrying now?

And how about the invisable Mold? City Inspectors and private where out to the site, and there was zero mold found.

Tom, how about telling the folks about how the NVVAM group has not maintained the building with the $2MM in funds it was given. The roof leaks, the patio looks like crap. Where did the money go?

Let's face facts, the NVVAM did not want Jorge out until Black Orchid made it a stipulation in their proposal for the building. Then during the bid process, Black Orchid donates $20,000, plus another $60,000 loan...that sure seems legitimate, right! How about telling us who owns Black Orchid, who the investors are, and if Black Orchid has an insdie plant on the Board of the NVVAM?

The truth shall set you free.

truth should come out, whats your real name? how do you know these things - from mr afanador himself?

Mr. Beckman, I know these things directly from the museum themselves and have witnessed the harrassment first hand, which is the shocking part, had I not seen it with my own two eyes.

Would it please you to see the bids from Black Orchid, the photos taken by the Manager, Jerry Kickish (sp?), or other information, like the $20,000 donation letter? The NVVAM has admitted as such. The attempted evication of Cafe Society is a farse required by the bid from Black Orchid. Why did it only surface with the bid with Black Orchid? Who is behind Black Orchid? Who on the board is tight with Black Orchid?

Also, why did the Board president suddenly step down two weeks ago?

So tell me, why the hiding behind Truth Should Come Out? Who are you? What an incredible farce, and why haven’t you contacted the spokesperson for the museum? Is it “Truth” you are after? The details of you work suggest otherwise.
The nature of your responses and your refusal to be known is typical and despicable as you and other “reporters” feign diligence for the sake of copy. I mean really, how great it would be to occupy a space in that empty head of yours as you run through the questions that might decide the ethical direction of your research.

Lets see, “Does the business owner that is being evicted have sufficient potential loss so as to slant his testimony”. “Oh no, that would be entirely impossible, we don’t even need to interview the museum staff”. Look, at least make an effort, your refusal borders on the conspiratorial. For instance:

I find it amazingly curious that no one has spoken one word with me about what happened that Saturday, a day that found me at the front desk all afternoon. You ask why the director of the board stepped down “suddenly” in a way that makes it look as if he is running away from the museum, which is complete deception on your part. If you truly wanted to know the Truth and were not just out to cast the museum in its worst light, you would have contacted the museum spokesperson, getting the explanation that you feign seeking here. Who do you think you are kidding? You are as interested in the Truth as Jorge is, and believe me when I tell you that all he wants is to keep his restaurant open. Isn’t that a shocking revelation?

All the museum has ever been interested in is continuing. Continuing to make its collection available to the Chicago Public Schools as literally thousands of students see it each year. The comments that are left by these kids will be the subject of my next post.
Continuing to mount interesting and challenging shows that now expand the mission of the museum to include Iraq veterans. If your are going to trash the museums efforts, at least appraise yourself of them, this is your ethical responsiblity. Peace Out.

I would like to set the record straight regarding my resignation as board chair. I had been discussing a job transfer since December 2006 that would require me to relocate to Dallas. Thus, my resignation was not sudden and was known for quite some time.

It makes me sad to read so much rumor and innuendo by individuals who are not in a position to understand all the facts. I understand that there are many competing conflicts here, and am confident long term we can find a solution that benefits all. I would like to encourage everyone to just lower their voices and let the process take place.

I am proud of the fact that the current board of the NVVAM and its employees continue to work hard to put the museum in the best position to succeed long term. That's what our goal has been from day one when I took over as board chair.

Let's all remember why the museum exists--to give the men and women who serve overseas a home to display artwork that communicates to us their experiences that they had in combat.


Matt Keepman

This is getting interesting, after reading thse comments and other articles. I have some questions for Mr. Keepman, Mr. Stanuga, and others in the know, fill us in:

1. Who is Black Orchid? Who are it's owners or investors?
2. Why was the 1801 S. Indiana Building operators or board
investigated a few years back and buy whom?
3. Why all the sudden are you trying to evict the restaurant if
all along they were a problem tenant? What is he charged with?
4. Why is Cafe Society now not allowed to use the outdoor space?
Isn't that a bit pety?

5. Why does the Museum Board allow an employee to go around and
help himself to restaurant food prep & take pictures of chicken
and place them up around the museum? It borders on harrasment,
and if not, is an incredibly stupid thing to do when you have
a lawsuit. Why not take the high road and let each do it's
business without interference?

6. We hear there is a clause in Black Orchid's proposal that
requires the 1801 S. Indiana Building Operators to vacate the
first floor sandwich shop, or the deal is off, is this true?

7. Why is the lawyer for NVVAM blaming the demise of the operation
and its ability to recover on the Cafe? Were they the ones
that mismanaged the Museum and its finances?

I have to say, I like all of the museum artists work, and am thankful every single day for those men and women that served. I have family in active duty, including the 3rd ID in Iraq, yet I am quite disgusted with the behavior of a few knuckleheads over there at the Museum. If the guy has a contract, has been a great exposure for the museum foot traffic, why treat people like shit and ruin their livelihood? Seems like you should be looking in the mirror.

Let me start by asking who you are and why are you so cowardly about exposing yourself in print? Think we'll see the pee stains? I think that anyone that asks these kinds of very private questions anonymously is a coward, period, and doesn't deserve the respect of an answer. I will however address some of this for the other readers.

Questions 1-5 are part of law suits and cannot be discussed at this time. You know this and only ask to make the museum look bad, shame on you. Miss Manners dictates appologies when this finally works its way to its logical conclusion, pee stains not withstanding.

I have no idea what a Black Orchid is, but I will check at google and the yellow pages. Have you done this?

To #7 please understand:

When you say you hear something, and then write it as if its true to make the Musuem look bad, it betrays your intention to anyone with a brain, and eventually people will see through you.
Just as Matt's response above proved that the same kind of question posted by "Truth Should Come Out" is just one more example of this kind of malicious fishing. Do you think Matt will get an apology for this transgression, or that the museum will? of course not. Decency and ethics are not part of your efficacy, which makes me ask, What is?

Forgive me for lumping you in with the Truth Should Come Out gang, but its the same kind of malicious idiocy. They accuse the museum, although not openly, of some kind of transgression because we have a new policy that is very Green. When no one is in the museum we shut down the AC to a trickle and douse the lights. How on earth can that be attacked today? What are they going to do when we finally get our wind aided solar energy package together? They will accuse us of something, believe me.

There is no one working with, or on the board, or any committee that is from the old regime that you have questions about. They were all replaced long ago with new members with a fresh and vital vision for the museums' future, direction and mission. The museum has changed as a result, do you know how? You say that you love the veterans la la la la. If that is in fact the case, cease immediately your uninformed attacks on the museum. It doesn't help them, and anyway, can't you wait for this to work its way through the courts, where you could attend the trials and actually witness testimony under oath?

I will keep saying that if you are going to trash the museum's efforts and crucify it for existing in your neighborhood, at least appraise yourself of its programs, history, artists and tradiitons. This is your ethical responsiblity. Peace Out.

Why is my identity of importance? Would this make me a target like the Cafe? Why can't these issues be openly discussed?

I have been appraising myself for educational purposes and have been researching the museum history.
Excuse me for asking frank and open questions that have already been touched on in the media. I am trying to understand if this is an issue about the arts, or the Veterans, or the Museum operators, the building, or the money.

I want to see advancement in art for all to see, especially of these pieces. But it is a shame that other Art & Educational entities who could use this space along with other Not-For-Profits, in lieu of a quick pay off and sell out. It is also sad when two groups who should be working together, have to resort to the behavior being displayed, and no one does a dam thing. This is America for crying out loud.

As to the money given and lost by the current operators of the building, I would rather give the money directly to the Veteran's who need it and will use it, vs. a group who has already squandered it. Out Vets deserve better.

There you go again, to quote someone else I found completely unethical.
There has been no money lost by the current operators of the building. Shame on you for saying such things, you can only lob these stink bombs from the safety of anonymity. If the public actually found out just who you are, it migh discover that your motives are personal. The only way this could have ever been discussed openly as you suggest, is by starting with an even playing field that is open and transparent. You have never been that, because you and others like you refuse to make yourself known. What kind of an idiot would agree to trusting and entering a dialog with someone that will not even let us know who he/she/it is?

The reason your identity is important is the same reason the law requires that in court cases and law suits, that all parties must be present in court, that under no circumstance would one be allowed to press charges anonymously, because to do so forfeits credibility. Duh.

Again the museum is guilty of only working to continue its existence, to continue to provide this amazing monument to the human cost of war, to school children, veterans, surviving family members, and interested public, while at the same time making a statement about the development of art made in response to, or in the middle of war. The new exhibitions that are currently planned around the experiences of Iraq veterans will do that and more. You are not really interested in that though are you?

"There has been no money lost by the current operators of the building." - So are you saying the Museum is not over $500,000 in debt, including the $1.7MM TIF Loan provided by citizen tax dollars? Acording to articles I read, this is the case.

Why are motivations of exposing potential corruption, potential harrassment, and potential discrimination considered personal? Do you have a problem with these principals? These are rights and obligations provided to me by many of the men and women who serve and sacrificed for this country, military and non-military. It's called integrity, and I will not let those people down.

Don't worry, thankfully, the city will take care of those veterans and their art who really need it and deserve it. But, why are you mad at the city for invoking a clause allowed, when it is the museum who initiated the legal action? From what I read, when you try to sell the building to a private entity because of tunnel vision, that's what could possibly happen.

I just find it immensely ironic that the VVAG organization is trying to defame & evict a tenant (Cafe Society) just after they announce plans to bring in Black Orchid, late last year. It finally dawned on me last week in when, through a former insider there, I was quoted verbatum the some proposal from Black Orchid to VVAG.....
"This offer is contingent upon lessor vacating the existing
first floor sandwich shop no later than delivery of the
space. In the event that the lessor is prevented from
vacating the aformentioned Tenant, Lessee may declare the
contract to be null and void and any deposits or other
funds returned to the lessee."
And then I read the VVAG board member acknowledging that Black Orchid gave $20,000 around the time of the bid process, and subsequently an additional loan to cover legal expenses in the evication of Cafe Society. I then read in paper the VVAG admitting placement of photos of chicken, and then go by for lunch after a quick peek at the NVVAM new program, and see that the building operator has now disallowed the Cafe from using the outdoor space last week...(are you out to destroy this guys business?)

Now you want to lecture me on what is ethical, that's rich!

Why is Black Orchid on the Auction Block? Were they hoping to move their full operation to 1801 S. Indiana the whole time? Did Black Orchid, as partners really have financial means? Something does not seem right. Seems the Truth Should Come Out was on to something


Upcoming Auctions with Detailed Information Monday,
Jun. 14 - Black Orchid Supper Club - Chicago, IL
Equipment Search
---------- Grafe Auction - Black Orchid Supper Club ----------
Date: Thursday, June 14, 2007
Time: 1899-12-30 10:30:00
Address: 230 West North Ave. , Chicago, IL

Directions: From I-90 exit 48B (North Ave.) east (toward the lake) 1.5 miles to the Piper Alley Building (3rd floor, ample parking and a loading dock).
Auctioneer's Note: This is a very rare opportunity. Two landmark Chicago locations selling in two huge days, both facilities on the same street and within three miles of each other! The busy summer months are here; don’t miss this chance to obtain your needed items at auction prices. Both locations are loaded with equipment including huge dining areas, bars and full kitchens. The doors open at 8:30 AM each day and everything must be sold regardless of price.

---------- Listing ----------
Framed Collector prints by Teenie Harris of famous jazz artists to include: Lena Horne, Ramsey Lewis, Bo Jangles, Ray Charles, Nate King Cole, Count Basie, Cab Calloway and many more
(300+) L & B Industries gold metal framed chairs w/black vinyl seats
(48) 28” x 48” black laminate tables
(8) 22” x 28” black laminate tables
(6) 22” x 28” black laminate tables
(12) 5’ black vinyl booth backs
(32) Cherry stained bar stools w/black vinyl cushions
(7) Antique lighted wall sconces
Antique chrome podium
Qty. butane candles
(60+) 2’ x 4’ punched tin ceiling panels
Qty. matched designer carpet w/sound proof pad

South Loop Resident, you are correct, this sure seems like a fishy deal all the way. Here are my guesses, let's ask questions and talk hypetheticals:

A) Did Black Orchid intended on moving their whole operation to
the Museum the whole time? Was this a Trojan Horse scenario
waiting to happen the entire time, (and Smoke & Mirrors)?

B) Could there have been some insider relationship on the
Board steering this relationship the whole time?

C) Again, who are the partners or investors in Black Orchid?
If they knew they were going under, would some one use the
the existing name & Corporation as a sacrificial lamb
to get the property? With this crash and burn option, both
parties can make out versus both loosing individually.

Is MCL Development owner McClain a silent partner of Black Orchid, as it was reported that MCL owns or developed Pipers Alley?

Oh the things we will never know! Thank God for the City saving the real Veteran's that deserve it...the Artists.

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Mark Konkol

Mark Konkol covers city neighborhoods for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can e-mail him or call (312) 321-2146.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Konkol published on April 17, 2007 6:19 PM.

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