Cubs: Rooftop club stiffed us our 17%

Demands $211,000 from shuttered operation: ‘It would not be fair to the other rooftops’

June 2, 2010

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter/

Now we know why Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts bought a piece of a building with an empty rooftop across the street from Wrigley Field.

There’s big money in getting the rooftop club reopened.

The Cubs have filed a lawsuit against Dean Bravos and Lee Gramatis, owners of the now-shuttered club at 3621 N. Sheffield, seeking to recoup $211,000 in profits that Bravos and Gramatis were supposed to share with the team last year, but never did.

In 2004, the Cubs and the rooftops struck a deal after an acrimonious dispute that saw the team put up windscreens to obscure rooftop views and file a copyright-infringement lawsuit designed to put the private clubs out of business.

Rooftop owners agreed to pay the Cubs 17 percent of their gross revenues for the next 20 years. In exchange, the Cubs agreed to market the rooftops and adjust the compensation rate downward if a 2006 bleacher expansion hurt their views.

According to the Cubs, Bravos and Gramatis honored the profit-sharing agreement in 2008 and made a token payment in 2009, before stiffing the Cubs for the remainder of last season. The Circuit Court suit also seeks interest, penalties and legal fees.

Gramatis could not be reached for comment. Bravos said he has “nothing to hide,” but he refused to comment on the lawsuit, claiming he hasn’t read it. If the Cubs’ figures are correct, the partners’ gross revenues for 2009 would have topped $1.24 million.

Mike Lufrano, vice president of community relations for the Cubs, called the latest chapter of rooftop wars “unfortunate.”

But he said, “It would not be fair to the other rooftops or to the team if someone were allowed to walk away without complying with the agreement.”

Last month, Ricketts bought a piece of the building where Bravos and Gramatis once had a lease to get the shuttered rooftop club re-opened as quickly as possible. The building is owned by James Petrozzini.

“Revenue from the rooftop is valuable to the team. If there’s a rooftop that isn’t operating, it’s helpful to the team to have it come back on line because it means 17 percent,” Lufrano said.

Despite the profit-sharing agreement, rooftop wars have become an almost annual rite of spring.

This year, the Wrigley Rooftop Association is opposing Ricketts’ proposal to put up an illuminated Toyota sign rising 40 feet above the Wrigley bleachers.

It would obscure the view of a Horseshoe Casino sign on the rooftop of a building at 3701 N. Kenmore owned by Lee Gramatis’ brother, Tom.

The City Council is expected to approve the sign permit next week in exchange for a four-year moratorium on outfield signs.

During that four-year hiatus, the team will work to develop a master plan for future signage at Wrigley.

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