Rooftop owners finally sue over Wrigley ad signs, but as landmarks violation, not contract breach

Jeez, finally:

Owners of the rooftop clubs near Wrigley Field sued the city Thursday, seeking to block a city-backed plan that will allow the Cubs to expand the aging ballpark.

The rooftop owners derided the improvement plan as “irrational, arbitrary and capricious.”

None of those things are illegal, though, so the rooftop owners actually sued the city for violating its own landmarks rules (specifically, the 2004 landmark designation that protected “the unenclosed, open-air character, the exposed structure system and generally uninterrupted ‘sweep’ and contour of the grandstand and bleachers”) and depriving them of property rights (since the Cubs, who aren’t a defendant in the suit, would be able to strong-arm them into giving up their rooftop businesses).

You can read the full complaint here. I’m not going to begin to guess what kind of shot this has in court, but it is interesting that the rooftop owners are suing over violations of the landmarks designation, not their contract with the Cubs, as they implied they would back in January. There’s certainly a good philosophical argument to be made that the landmarks commission shouldn’t be able to just change its mind about what a landmark is — I’ve made it myself — but that’s a long way from a legal argument.

At least it looks like this suit — and the ultimate verdict on the Wrigley redo — is going to be fought over something resembling issues of public policy, and not just contract law. That not only makes more sense, but potentially allows for rulings along the lines of “You can put up some ad signs, but only if they don’t change the character of Wrigley too drastically,” which I think most people who are conflicted over the renovation plan would consider a more meaningful compromise than “Do whatever you want, but pay the rooftop owners a pile of money for breaking their contract.”

3 comments on “Rooftop owners finally sue over Wrigley ad signs, but as landmarks violation, not contract breach

  1. I don’t think the rooftops can sue the Cubs until the Cubs at least get their building permits approved.

  2. Interesting. We’ll see what the next shoe to drop is, but this does suggest that the rooftop partners’ own lawyers may have told them that what the Cubs are now planning to do passes muster for “expansion” purposes… making their contractual claim tenuous at best.

    Time will tell… could be dozens of twists and turns yet to come.

  3. This has nothing to do with their contractual claim. This is an attempt to block the permit process from moving forward. If it delays things even a few weeks, it could cause big problems for the contruction getting done in the off season. Maybe a long shot by the rooftops, maybe not. We’ll see.