Bucktown Homeowners Give Chilly Welcome to Cesar’s Margaritas

By at January 5, 2012 | 1:49 am | Print

In hopes of fostering a dialogue between residents and potential new businesses, 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack, staffer Elizabeth Gomez, and Bucktown Community Organization President Eva Bergant hosted a meeting earlier this evening with Cesar Castellanos, owner of Cesar’s Margaritas. Mr. Castellanos plans to open a third location in Bucktown, in the long vacated former Dairy Queen space at 1649 N. Damen.

Accompanied by his lawyer, his wife, and newborn baby, Castellanos, a Mexico City native who opened his first restaurant in 1990, at Clark and Belmont, and plans to bring an estimated 35-40 jobs to the neighborhood, answered questions and replied to constructive-bordering-on-rude feedback from approx. 45 Bucktown residents, most of whom live near the former Dairy Queen space and seemed understandably annoyed by the possibility of– as one Bucktowner more or less put it– looking out her bedroom window, across the alley from the proposed restaurant, and seeing 20-somethings drinking margaritas on Cesar’s second floor patio.

Among the litany of concerns expressed by residents were “hammered 20-somethings,” “public intoxication,” “excessive noise”  “public safety,” and the presence of Cesar’s Margaritas “adding to an already drunken population.”

One person opined, “We don’t want it [Bucktown] to turn into another Lincoln Park or Lakeview,” while another person chimed in, “It’s already happened.”

According to Mr. Castellanos, Cesar’s has a restaurant license and not a tavern license, and it will be closed by 11PM or Midnight, even on weekends. There will be no roof deck, no live music,  or outdoor speakers. (Pictured is Cesar’s on Clark, just south of Belmont).

In response to a question about changing his marketing- perhaps highlighting Mexican food over margaritas- Castellanos said that yes, he’d be open to changing his marketing plan. He shared, while staring at the somewhat sullen and apparently margarita averse (or just “not-in-our-backyard”) crowd, “…I feel like [you’re all treating me like] a criminal.”

“It is what it is,” said resident Brandon Antoniewicz after the meeting, adding, “We live in a dense city. I wanted to see if it’s [Cesar’s] a done deal…  I am more concerned about a chain restaurant [moving into the space] than a family-owned restaurant [like Cesar’s].”

Registered voters living within 250 feet of the proposed establishment at 1649 N. Damen should have gotten a notice in the mail, Gomez noted. She said that those folks can write a letter to the city’s Dept. of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection if they oppose or support the proposed business. Thus far, 10 letters have been received.

While Castellano’s lease is contingent upon receiving a liquor license, once or if said license is obtained, residents living within 500-ft of the proposed (and tentatively named) Cesar’s Sinful Margaritas can write a letter to request a community meeting, explained Ald. Waguespack shortly before the meeting adjourned.







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  1. Buster, 3 years ago Reply

    That’s a damn shame. The guy runs nice restaurants/watering holes. Bunch of NIMBY’s thought there were moving to a commercial stretch on Damen and wouldn’t have bars/restaurants? This is a stone’s throw from the Northside bar and grill…with a huge outdoor patio/drinking area.

  2. Gunther Shinehardt, 3 years ago Reply

    I didn’t hear anything from the residents that were “bordering on rude”.
    What I did hear was frustration over yet another liquor-focused establishment in their neighborhood. Which by every right they have a case to complain, question and challenge this new bar.

    • chicago-pipeline, 3 years ago Reply

      Gunther, maybe “harsh” was a better word than almost or bordering on rude. I can understand the frustrations of those living right next to it. In the late 1990s, my brother lived right by Damen and Dickens. Toast built an outdoor back patio that we could always hear as it was right next door. Lucky for him he was only renting. There are a lot of homeowners who have invested a lot in their places. When they bought here 10 or 15 years ago maybe they could not have imagined how the Damen strip might change. The alderman did the right thing by opening up the conversation. Cesar seemed to be receptive of the feedback. Like everyon else, he is just trying to survive too. Damen seems to have less vacant storefronts than other streets. Walking past a two level vacant building is worse than a margarita place that might not be any louder than North Side, Cans, or any other of the bar neighbors.

  3. really bucktown questionmark, 3 years ago Reply

    you can walk by the other two cesar’s and you wouldn’t even know they were open… these people are crying over nothing. and really, you live in bucktown because places like these exist on Damen… don’t move there based off of that, then cry about it. I’m sure the artists you displaced are

    personally i think their food has gone way downhill and their margaritas not very good and both are way overrated. I think as a business, the one on broadway is not doing well at all, they’ve fire-saled the place away with groupons continuously over the last year. reviews of it are terrible… i wonder if all 3 can even stay in business or if this is a last ditch attempt to try and recoup lost money elsewhere

  4. chicago-pipeline, 3 years ago Reply

    here is an email from Elizabeth Gomez to all who attended as well as further info on how you can write a letter to object to or support the license:

    Hello All,

    Thank you for attending last night’s meeting about the pending liquor license application for Cesar’s Margaritas. As we discussed last night, I am writing so that you have my contact information for any further questions about the liquor licensing process.

    Several residents asked me to provide the name and address for the Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (DBACP) in case they wanted to write letters to object or support the licensee. Please provide a cc’d copy to our office and I will make sure to forward it to DBACP as well. If you want your letters included on the record, I would highly recommend that you get a copy to our office today (email is fine). Please mail the original to DBACP immediately because of the deadline. Letters should be addressed to:

    Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel
    Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection
    121 N Lasalle, Rm. 801
    Chicago, IL 60602

    As our office receives more information, I will update you.


    Elizabeth Gomez
    Director of Outreach
    Alderman Scott Waguespack – 32nd Ward
    City of Chicago
    2657 N Clybourn
    Chicago, IL 60614
    (773) 248-1330
    (773) 248-1360 fax

  5. Rassig, 3 years ago Reply

    To Buster, you play the NIMBY card, but I wonder if you live w/in 250 feet of this location. I agree that if you live on Damen, you have to expect a certain amount of noise. However, I live on Winchester and my block gets plenty of drunken idiots, who have puked or pissed right in front of my house while I’m sitting on my porch… and sometimes, threatened me when I challenged them. I’ve lived here since 1997 and it was never like this previously. I don’t have a problem with a restaurant (with liquor license) moving into the neighborhood… as long as the business focuses on attacting a more diverse clientele who are more interested in a creative menu rather than getting wasted.

  6. MICHELLE, 3 years ago Reply

    although I agree that damen is already a busy ave I have to agree- it’s one of the least vacant lot streets in the city. I do real estate all over the city and I live in wicker park so i have a good idea of what “cesars” would bring to the table. I mean they are responsible in keeping up with city ordinances in terms of public intoxication, noise and public safety so just as long as they play by the rules why not. I’m not sure why everyone is so consummed with a GREAT restaurant opening in the neighborhood. I actually heard about Cesar’s thru groupon and have been there a few times since. I for one welcome a good place that serves good food and keeps damen storefronts occupied. that or you can go to

  7. J., 3 years ago Reply

    This neighborhood has been overrun by thousands of worthless hipster fucks.
    They are responsible for the yuppie invasion and the rent hikes.
    They are the drunks in question.
    HOWEVER this place can hardly be any worse than debonair social club, the empty bottle, or any other worthless bar within walking distance of Milwaukee, North and Damen. Where’s the outcry to get those places closed (where was the anger when they opened)? Where’s the demand to have increased police presence so that these pieces of hipster trash can be arrested when they run red lights on their bicycles putting both pedestrians and drivers at risk?
    Residents of this neighborhood ought to be addressing the real issue: the hipsters .
    This place isn’t gonna make things any worse and I’d rather have venues like this around than standard bars.

    • chicago-pipeline, 3 years ago Reply

      The empty bottle is not short walking distance from milwaukee/damen/north.

  8. Scott, 3 years ago Reply

    I got the feeling that many of the people at the meeting would be more comfortable if Cesar would remove “Sinful Margaritas” from the name and just called it “Cesar’s Restaurant” or something similar to reflect the family atmosphere he claims to be aiming for. The current name implies bar, not restaurant. Personally, I’d rather see a place like what Cesar described than another national-chain clothing store. What’s more likely though, it would stand empty for the foreseeable future. Keep in mind, this would be a fairly small place compared to The Northside and CANS, and given the high price of their margaritas I don’t think all that many 20-somethings would be tanking up here. Plus, it would not be open late.

  9. chicago-pipeline, 3 years ago Reply

    Agreed… ‘Sinful’ makes it seem like something you’d see on a Las Vegas strip. I think in Lincoln Park they’re called ‘killer’ margaritas, which fits the demographic here. This neighborhood has a lot of young families in it. And yes, way better than another national brand clothing store. Most of the 20-somethings go to Nick’s, Crocodile, Cans, evil olive, etc. El Ranchito in Logan Square also has two locations up north, and while they advertise margarita specials in the Reader, their main platform is the food.

  10. Ross Rossmore, 3 years ago Reply

    Too bad that the business that built this building (Dairy Queen) wasn’t supported and kept viable by the neighbors who are now complaining. Lesson learned, folks.

  11. rodeoclown, 3 years ago Reply

    While I live nearby, maybe just outside of 500 ft away, I, too, am disappointed that Ceasar’s will be moving in, mainly because their food is terrible and their drinks are sugary messes. I can go to Big Star if I want a good drink and tacos/guac without the Mexican kitch.

  12. Local, 3 years ago Reply

    I don’t have a problem with the bar moving into that location. I have been in the neighborhood for over 15 years and seen bars come and go. The problem is with the landlords of the vacant properties around that area on Damen. There are numerous empty storefronts that should be rented even in this economy however the owner, who’s name is on the front of the buildings refuses to lower their 2006 prices. So let Cesar’s open and keep the neighborhood moving forward.

    Plus another margarita place will free up some room at Big Star for the local patrons.

  13. chicago-pipeline, 3 years ago Reply


    We are contacting people who have reached out to Alderman Waguespack’s office regarding the proposed liquor license and special use for an outdoor patio at 1649 N Damen. The Alderman has asked for the case, which was scheduled for this Friday, to be continued to the next hearing on February 17th. The reason for this request is to allow the two neighborhood community organizations that represent the location, the Wicker Park Committee and the Bucktown Community Organization, the opportunity to meet with the applicant and then relay any comments they may have to the Alderman and the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce has also indicated a desire to meet with the applicant and we are encouraging them to meet with any interested groups in the area.

    The continuance isn’t official until the Zoning Board of Appeals meets on Friday, but we received confirmation from the Bureau of Zoning and Land Use Planning earlier today that the Chairman was informed of the request to continue the case and had agreed to it. Continued cases are typically heard after new cases at the next meeting in the afternoon session, which begins at 2PM.

    Please keep in mind that this February 17th case involves only the request for a special use permit to allow an outdoor patio at this location. The application for a liquor license is proceeding on a separate track and we will notify interested constituents regarding the progress of this application as any significant developments as they occur.

    Paul Sajovec

    Chief of Staff

    Office of Alderman Scott Waguespack
    32nd Ward

    City of Chicago

    2657 N Clybourn

    Chicago, IL 60614
    (773) 248-1330
    (773) 248-1360 fax



  14. Bucktown Resident, 3 years ago Reply

    I walked past the empty storefront this weekend (21 April 2012), and noticed all of the permits have been removed. Any word if Cesar’s has decided to pull out?

  15. chicago-pipeline, 3 years ago Reply

    Not sure, BR, but we can find out. Thanks for the update.

  16. chicago-pipeline, 3 years ago Reply

    BR, and all. Cesar has decided to pull out of the project. And there’s a hole where Hot Chocolate is/was.

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