Lexington House to close

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins




 Photo by Jeff Vorva

The Lexington House will give way to a used car showroom.



It is the end of an era.

The longtime iconic Lexington House Restaurant in Hickory Hills, host of weddings, anniversary parties, bridal and baby showers an even a couple of Bruce Rauner rallies, will soon be home to a new business. Its final even will be held Aug. 24.

The Hickory Hills Council unanimously approved a proposal last Thursday from DriveTime Car Sales Company, LLC., to open a used car showroom on the Lexington House property located 7717 W. 95th St. The company is in process of purchasing the land.

One of the Lexington House owners, Barbara Vuletic, was in attendance to support the project and the  sale.

“As hard as it is, our family knows it is time for this decision,'' she said. "Times change and unfortunately, our grandchildren are not inclined to carry on the family business. We are comfortable with the plans proposed by DriveTime for the property.”

The plans, as presented by Attorney Dan Sosin, of Sosin & Arnold, Ltd., in Orland Park, call for considerable changes to the front of the building.

“On average, there will be an inventory of approximately 100 cars at the facility,'' he said. "We will basically be using 40 to 50 percent of the existing building.”

Sosin said the company has the sixth largest volume of used car sales in the country.

“These are reconditioned cars. They are not just acquired and put on a lot, they are extensively reconditioned and then delivered to the showrooms.” he said.

DriveTime Car Sales currently has two locations in Illinois -- Lombard and Schaumburg. 

Mayor Mike Howley said that he had visited one of the facilities.

“It was an impressive showroom,” he said.

Howley and Alderman Tom McAvoy asked Sosin about plans for the existing parking lot. “It is in bad shape and needs to be repaired,” said Howley.

Dan Packowski, Managing Director of Real Estate for DriveTime, replied that the company has a standard protocol with their parking lots.

“We make a preliminary survey to see what needs to be repaired and seal-coated, both for appearance and safety,” he said.

Howley and Alderman Deborah  Ferraro also expressed concern about the landscaping and aesthetics at the front of the building. Howley told Sosin that the city has a consistent plan for 95th Street.

”We will want to see your plans for the landscaping,” he said.

Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Committee, Syed Imam, told Howley that the committee had met with DriveTime representatives and were satisfied with the proposal as presented.

“It is a good fit for the city.” he said.

Sosin said the company anticipates estimated sales revenue to the city at approximately $100,000 to $200,000 annually. Anticipated opening date is March, 2016 

After the vote, Mayor Howley thanked Vuletic and her family for their contributions to Hickory Hills since 1968.

“The Lexington House put Hickory Hills on the map. It is an iconic landmark. It saddens me that it will be gone,'' he said. "It was a rite of passage for teen-age boys to become busboys at the restaurant. In high school, you either worked at the Lexington House, the Sabre Room or the Delphian House.

In other action, a bid was awarded to Hasse Construction Company, Inc., of Calumet City, for drainage improvements on 85th Court, at a cost of $1,816,328.95. Village Engineer, Mike Spolar said the work is expected to start in August.

Also bidding on the project were John Neri Construction Company, Inc., and Riccio Construction Company.


OL board approves Glory Days bar and restaurant

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Ensuring that “Glory Days” will not pass them by, the Oak Lawn Village Board Tuesday approved the ordinances necessary to allow a new bar and restaurant by that name to open at 9630 S. Pulaski Road.

The votes were among several decisions aimed at helping new or existing businesses in the village.

Cardinal Liquor Barn, at 9630 Southwest Highway, also was awarded the license necessary to install video gaming machines in the package liquor store.

With Trustee Tim Desmond (1st) absent, the vote allowing the Glory Days restaurant to open in a vacant Pulaski storefront was 4-1. The only dissenting vote was Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th), who represents the district where it will be located. He had asked for a 30-day postponement, until the next board meeting, but that was voted down 4-2. Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) sided with him.

 Vorderer said several constituents living nearby had expressed concerns about the new business, which will have live entertainment. He requested the extra time to get more details about the project and make an informed vote.

“I have some concerns with this moving into a high-density area,” said the trustee, noting that many senior citizens live in the condos and apartments to the south and west of the commercial site. While others on the board said the project has been in the works for two months, he asserted that he only heard about it recently, and received the details with his packet of information before the meeting.

When it was noted that all six investors live in Oak Lawn, Vorderer said he had nothing against them.

“I represent the people who vote in that district. I just think it would be irresponsible of me to vote for this without more information.” He agreed that the strip mall has a lot of vacancies, and planned to meet with the property owner.

“It is perhaps the most depressed property in my district,” he said, adding that because the strip mall serves as a drop-off point for a senior daycare facility, it may not be the best place for a busy restaurant and bar. It would be located beside Wagner’s Seafood, and a physical therapy center, sleep disorder clinic and credit union are also found amid the vacancies in the strip.

“I trust the six people involved in this venture,” said Trustee Mike Carberry (6th). “They have submitted plans to our staff. It is going to be good for our community, with great food. They need time to market it,” he said, asserting that there was no need to delay the vote.

Trustees Bud Stalker (5th) and Bob Streit (3rd) also spoke in favor of the project. Stalker said that several of the investors live in his district. “There is a vacant lot on one side of the business, and five storefronts are for lease,” he added. The shopping strip to the west of it, which includes Kmart, also has vacancies He said the fact that video gaming will be allowed, as it is in other similar businesses in the village now, is appropriate.

“We have to give them a level playing field,” he said.

Stalker noted that the site is located on borders of Chicago and Evergreen Park, and video gaming is not allowed in Evergreen Park.

“It is a huge improvement. It is a quality development in a strip mall with significant vacancies, and we should support them,”  Streit said


Following the discussion about Glory Days, the board voted unanimously for the license changes for Cardinal Liquor, a longstanding local business. Although Stalker said he did not want video gambling to be the main revenue generator for any business allowed to have the gaming machines, the trustees agreed not to limit gaming licenses to businesses that serve food.

Jim Shirazi, the owner of Cardinal, thanked the trustee following the vote.

“I think the store needs the stimulus you have given it,” he said. Shirazi explained that he opened the store 20 years ago, and business was good for the first 13 years, until the downturn in the economy in 2008. He also said the number of vacancies on Southwest Highway also has hurt business.

“Liquor sales will still be what drives the business,” he said. He said that will only be a supplemental income.

“And the Indian is not for sale,” said Shirazi when Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) jokingly asked about the large statue outside his business, which has become a local landmark since Shirazi brought it there from Chicago Ridge about 17 years ago.

Suggesting that he might add a Chicago Blackhawks jersey to the statue, if he could find one big enough, Shirazi said he also plans to improve the exterior of the property as a way of thanking the village for its support.

“I will be re-doing the landscaping,” he said. “I want to be a good neighbor and reinvest in the property, and improve the appearance of the whole area,” he said.

A real screen gem

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


It was raining like a scene from “Key Largo.’’

The Blackhawks were down 2-1 and playing Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

And yet more than a dozen people – including a couple of big-time Blackhawk fans, spent their June 10 evening watching a couple of old-time comedies. The Marx Brothers’ “Horse Feathers” and
“Duck Soup” were presented at the Oak View Center in Oak Lawn.

CineVerse celebrated its 10th anniversary in early June and the Oak View Center has hosted screenings and discussions about various films on Wednesdays for a decade. Running the show is movie buff Erik J. Martin, who shows the films and then asks the group for input on them.

Almost all of the films are either old or obscure. Black and white, silent and foreign films make up a bulk of the movies shown and discussed.

Martin insists this isn’t some snooty highbrow group, but anyone coming to a meeting hoping for a showing of the super hero movie of the month or sci-fi movies where computer-generated robots destroy each other will probably be disappointed.

“I’m not saying were the cultural conciseness of Oak Lawn,’’ Martin said. “But to the group’s credit, we cater to the tastes of the members. A lot of people show up because they want to be exposed to something they wouldn’t ordinarily rent or watch on TV on their own.’’

Martin is a guy who loves moves and is fascinated enough by them to research them.

“I don’t pride myself on being a know-it-all on this stuff,’’ he said. “I think the majority would agree that one of the great pleasures of CineVerse is discovering stuff that you would have never seen on your own. And it’s important to hear other viewpoints. It’s great to hear what people like and don’t like about a movie. It’s a communal, social experience.

“The crux of it, to me, is that you watch movies all the time, but how often do you really talk about them? That’s what keeps everybody coming back.’’

Hometown’s Brian Hansen and Tom Nesis kicked off the discussion on the Marx Brothers double feature.

While casual film viewers notice the obvious slapstick gags, from Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo, people like Hansen and Nesis observed some of the more subtle humor, double entendres and its satire on world events during the 1930s era in which the movies were made.

Martin likes to bring facts about the movie to the table. He examined the Marx Brothers movies of the early 1930s with some of their later works for MGM, in which more music and love-interest storylines were featured.

“This isn’t trivia,” he said. “I try to find out what is contextually interesting. Historically interesting. What’s relevant? What still resonates today? What were the themes? Were there any symbols or repeated patterns? What was the director going for? Why does this movie still hold up today? Or does it not hold up? Those important kinds of questions that I ask.’’

Ten years ago, the group started by watching the Orson Wells’ classic “Citizen Kane.’’ It’s been shown three times in 10 years. Martin remembers spirited debate over D.W. Griffith’s 1915 silent movie “Birth of a Nation,’’ which features the founding of the Ku Klux Klan.

Coming up in July and August include “Casablanca,” “Cool Hand Luke,” and “The Shawshank Redemption.’’

Martin did have an off-night, in which he snuck in some classically bad films.

 “It fell on April 1 and I told them a week before to show up because I had a special surprise planned,” he said. “I told them they would be watching clips from some of the greatest movies of all time. I told them I put a special package together and we will talk about these.

“We got a pretty good turnout. We hit the lights. I hit ‘play’ and suddenly we started watching ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ skewering ‘Manos the Hands of Fate,’ which is a real bad drive-in horror movie, and ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.’ We tried to get those both in and we just couldn’t take it anymore. We had to turn it off. It was that bad.’’

Films are shown at 7 p.m. at the Oak View Center, 4625 S. 110th St. in Oak Lawn.


OL cops and village sued for ‘shocking misconduct’

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn resident Piotr Niton on June 29 filed an 11-count federal lawsuit against Oak Lawn police officers and the village of Oak Lawn charging excessive force and other civil rights violations.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, on behalf of Niton and his two minor daughters, alleges, among other things, that police used excessive force against him during an arrest on July 27, 2013. He also cites “a ‘code of silence’ in the Oak Lawn Police Department, by which officers fail to report misconduct committed by other officers.”

Oak Lawn Police Chief Michael Murray had no comment on the lawsuit. A representative said last week that the chief never comments on ongoing litigation.

Oak Lawn Village Manager Larry Deetjen also said the village does not comment on litigation. “Suffice to say, our Oak Lawn police do an outstanding job for our community and are well-trained and respectful of our laws and all citizens’’ Deetjen said in a statement. “Their job is never easy nor uncomplicated in an ever-changing and dynamic society. The Village will vigorously defend itself and the laws they are sworn to uphold.”

 Niton’s attorney, David P. Sterba, of Palos Heights-based Walsh, Fewkes & Sterba, P.C , said, “My client’s constitutional rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as Section 1983 of the U.S. Code, have been violated by this shocking police misconduct, pursuant to what is clearly a policy and practice of the Village of Oak Lawn by its Police Department. We look forward to the day when a federal jury sends a clear and unambiguous message to the Village of Oak Lawn – stop this outrageous and lawless behavior by your police officers.”  

Niton is seeking unspecified monetary damages, attorney fees, costs and punitive damages. The complaint also seeks compensatory damages for his two daughters.

According to Niton’s complaint, shortly after midnight on July 27, 2013, he was asleep on his living room couch, and his two young daughters were in their bedrooms when he was “awakened by loud and persistent banging on his front door.”  

He said in the suit that when he opened the door, two uniformed Oak Lawn police officers on his front porch shouted commands at him, questioning him about a hit-and-run accident that occurred earlier that evening, and demanding that he come outside to show them his van. Niton told the officers he had not been driving, and would not leave his home but offered to open his garage door from inside his house to let them inspect his van.

The complaint states that officer Timothy Thomas then “forced his way into Niton’s home and violently shoved Niton backwards” onto the floor, landed on top of him and struck him with his fists and his knees. Officer James Mitchell also allegedly repeatedly and violently struck Niton with his knees. The case also alleges that Thomas and Mitchell beat Niton with steel batons before handcuffing him and leading him out the door.

According to the complaint, Niton’s daughters heard the beating from their bedrooms and the older girl witnessed it.

Niton was arrested and charged with two felony counts of aggravated battery to a police officer, resisting a peace officer and other offenses. A judge found no probable cause and dismissed all counts against Niton at a preliminary hearing on Aug. 21, 2013, but he was later indicted on two felony counts of aggravated battery to a police officer and two counts of resisting a peace officer.

According to a press release, in February 2015, after a four-day trial, a Cook County jury found Niton not guilty of all counts.

A different man was later determined by the police to be the actual driver of the van involved in the hit-and-run crash.

In addition to Thomas and Mitchell, others named as defendants in the pending federal lawsuit are Oak Lawn Police Sgt. David Winston, other unnamed Oak Lawn police officers and the Village of Oak Lawn. The suit alleges use of excessive force; false arrest; false imprisonment; conspiracy; malicious prosecution; failure to intervene; intentional infliction of emotional distress and other charges.

Niton, who had spinal surgery after the incident, states in the complaint that he suffered “pain and injury, as well as emotional distress.”


Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Welles was larger than life in more ways than one

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

You are old if you remember Orson Welles.

You are ancient if you were around when Orson Welles was a genius. But you are a better person for it.

If Welles was still alive, he would be 100.

Hanging out with Erik Martin and his Oak Lawn-based CineVerse film discussion group and talking about classic movies (see page 1)  jogged my memory about my favorite movie of all time, “Citizen Kane.’’

Some, including Martin, consider it to be the greatest movie ever. CineVerse showed it three times in 10 years.  Welles was the boy genius who starred and directed that film in 1941 and, depending on who you want to believe, wrote some or a lot of the storyline.

Growing up, I didn’t get Welles. At the time he was a fat, old guy who people in the entertainment biz made fun of. He did some wine commercials, popped up on a Dean Martin roast and many talk shows.

His last couple of credits before death in 1985 were not Oscar- or Emmy-worthy. He was the voice of the planet-eating robot named Unicron in the movie “Transformers: The Movie’’ and he was the voice in a “Moonlighting” episode on TV. Remember “Moonlighting”? That was when Bruce Willis did TV. And had hair!

When I was in college, I was home on a Saturday night and “Citizen Kane” was being shown at 10:30 p.m. My attitude was “OK, Kane, you are supposed to be the greatest movie of all time – impress me.’’

The stars were aligned for me to not enjoy the greatest movie of all time. I was watching on a 19-inch TV with rabbit ears. Channel 7 showed way too many commercials.

And I loved it.

It’s the story of the fictional newspaper mogul Charles Foster Kane (allegedly based on William Randolph Hearst) from the innocence of his childhood to his rise as an idealistic newspaperman to his later years as a disagreeable old man.  The lights, shadows and camera-angle styles used in that film are still used in films today.

Welles was masterful as a young, middle aged and old Kane.

I thought it was going to be overrated but I was blown away by the movie.

Then I found out Welles was just  25 when he created the masterpiece. All of a sudden, the fat wine salesman people enjoyed spoofing was someone worthy of respect in my world.

Even earlier in his career, he was the brainchild of the radio broadcast “War of the Worlds” which was a fictional account of alien invasions and it was so realistic-sounding that people all over the country panicked.  Frightened folks called radio stations and newspapers all across the nation wanting to know what the heck was happening to their planet.

The first quarter century of Welles’ life was simply amazing.

The rest was a mixture of hits and misses but nothing could compare with the work his first work of art –“Citizen Kane.’’

For those of you youngsters who think that black and white movies are not worth your time and know Kane as a Blackhawks star or a WWE wrestler, I would point out that alt-group the White Stripes have a song called “The Union Forever” in which the lyrics are based on Kane.

A few hard rock/punk groups have emerged that called themselves Citizen Kane have popped up and a prog-rock group called Citizen Cain so the movie has some influence in the guitar group world.

The “Orson” character in “Mork and Mindy” was in homage to Welles, even if fat jokes were a part of the bit. “The Simpsons” parodied Welles’ “War of the Worlds” broadcasts. I don’t know if the town Orson, Indiana in “The Middle” has to do with Welles, but it wouldn’t surprise me. 

Kane is probably not for the teen set, but if you are in your 20s or older and haven’t seen it yet, give it a shot. It might not make it to No. 1 on your list there is so much to the movie to enjoy.

And just remember, the guy who made the magic of this great film was just 25.