Thursday, November 15, 2012

Citizen: Lawsuit Probable in Battle Over Chatham Theater

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The Citizen is writing more about our local movie house. We already know the genesis of this story, Alisa and Donzell Starks had been forced out of day-to-day operations by their silent partner Michael Silver. Silver brought in a management firm to operate the theater and the Starks' continue to operate Lawndale. While the Starks' no longer operate the Chatham 14, they still own the property with Silver.

I'm trying not to excerpt a lot from this article but there is a lot of information here. This is the most complete story I have found yet! There was another indication here, trouble had been brewing for years. If you know the court system in Cook County it takes time to evict people whether we're talking about residential or business renters.

All the same, it starts off with the Starks' planning to go to court and then the beginning of their relationship with Michael Silver which started in 2007. Then how Silver thought breaking with Marcus Theaters and F & F Management had been a mistake in hindsight. The most important thing to note in our posting was the process of the eviction and forcing the Starks' out of day to day operations at the Chatham.
Earlier this year, Silver began the eviction process in court. As the managing partner he took the Starks to court for outstanding “rent” as the theater operators. Both sides said they didn’t want it to come down to such action.

The Starks said they began to expedite their plan to buy Silver out and were close to a deal as the sides went back and forth to court. The couple had until late September to make a move but Silver said they ran out of time which was evidenced by the big neon green eviction sign on the movie house’s door on Oct. 19. At the time, the theater was preparing for a busy Tyler Perry’s “Alex Cross” film opening.

“He is using his role as managing partner to control some things in a certain way that we’re objecting to,” Alisa Starks said about Silver.

Silver said the couple had at least six months to ante up and buy him out, or altogether step aside. When they didn’t, he put them out.

“They agreed in writing that if they were unsuccessful in buying that interest, they would voluntarily step down and allow a new operator to take their place,” he said. “I was very, very upset because I did not want to disrupt that theater or the Chatham community. But I had no choice but to evict them.”

According to documents available on the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s website, the owner of the Chatham theater property is 210 W. 87th Chicago TH, LLC (Silver and the Starks) and eviction proceedings began in March against I.C.E. Development (the Starks) which operated the theater. According to the electronic docket, the Starks owe at least $725,000. Alisa Starks said the couple needed just shy of $10 million to buyout Silver.
So also noted here are future plans!
F&F Management is now operating Chatham and Silver said he is expecting to make at least $1 million in capital improvements.

John Scaletta, vice president of F&F Management, said that the Chatham -14 theater workers who wanted to stay on had been retained and that all of the African American vendors and contractors — except for the security company — are still intact. He added that all of the managers are still at the theater, as well.

“The Starks did something really, really important. They brought entertainment to the South Side of Chicago when no one else would,” said Scaletta.

The battle over Chatham will move to the courts, the Starks said. Still, Lawndale remains open under them and they look forward to reopening Western in the future.
 I was up there not long after they reopened and one weekend in the same period. They still can draw a crowd and on the day I had been up there which was a Wednesday, there were a steady stream of senior citizens coming up to watch a show. So there are still people who will come to watch a show during the course of a given week.

How many of these people would be willing to go to the West Side to support the Starks'? There were those who were calling for that in the wake of the eviction and the Chatham's reopening.

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