Friday, September 19, 2008

Hans Morsbach: "I Am [Still] An Old Fart"

posted by chicago pop

About a year ago, Hans Morsbach gave an interview with the Chicago Maroon in which he described himself as an "old fart." ("Uncommon Interview: Hans Morsbach", October 23, 2007. )

For some strange reason the Maroon link no longer exists, but our original riff is here.

Since then, nothing has changed. Morsbach's is one of about 150-170 valid signatures on a petition to introduce the option for an alcohol ban in the 5th Ward's 39th Precinct on the November 4 ballot.

Although he complains about not being able to sell liquor on Hyde Park's 57th Street, and takes full advantage of the opportunity to sell liquor at a location in downstate Illinois, Morsbach doesn't want anyone to sell liquor in the 39th Precinct of the 5th Ward, site of Doctors Hospital.

That is to say, in his own backyard.

If you've followed HPP for any length of time, you'll know that Morsbach recently opened up a restaurant location in downstate Normal, Illinois, where he is raking in liquor revenue from a full-service beer hall near the campus of Illinois State University -- which he laments not being able to do in Hyde Park.

Here's how he described the merits of his new, downstate Medici in the above-cited Maroon article:

It's all about economics. We can have liquor, and it is in a good location close to Illinois State University.

If only students of the University of Chicago were so lucky!

But it gets even better. At pretty much the same time that Morsbach gave everyone a lecture about how the redevelopment of Harper Court would be like a sinful "Second Coming of Urban Renewal," he was taking advantage of a publicly subsidized, municipal land-clearance program in downtown Normal Illinois, setting up shop with his liquor license across the street from -- a Marriott Hotel!

Marriott Hotel Across the Street From Morsbach's Downstate Beer Hall

As with Marriott Hotels, so with booze: both are OK if they are in someone else's neighborhood and are served to someone else's kids.

Here's what his downstate menu has to say about it:

I'd Serve Booze in Hyde Park, But They Won't Let Me!

Humble Hyde Parkers may be forgiven if they, too, dream of something "more spectacular."

Alas, aspiring restauranteurs won't be able to "serve you a glass of wine to enjoy your meal" in the 39th Precinct because Hans Morsbach won't let them.

So Morsbach will be happy to serve you booze, you'll just have to drive 120 miles to get it. He'll take a stand against Urban Renewal in Hyde Park, and the University of Chicago, but not against Urban Renewal in Normal, or Illinois State University.

Residents of the Fighting 39th, you should be proud: those are some principles we can believe in.

Site of the "Second Coming"


edj said...

I don't feel much like going to Medici anymore and I think that ther are probably a lot more people who would think the same if they read this posting. How much does Medici make from university-sponsored and affiated catering? Student stopping by for lunch? Seems like Hans wants everything from us, but doesn't want to support his customers.

How can a group of people who live next to train track complain about noise from a hotel? About traffic when they had a fully functioning hospital with limited parking until eight years ago?

Maybe Students who care about building night life in Hyde Park should no longer eat at Medici. Maybe those of us who want more for our families in the neighborhood should forget about filling Hans' register. Maybe the university should look elsewhere to get food for its meetings.

Maybe the backlash should start now.

Richard Gill said...

So, what's he worried about? He's got that big, bad railroad behind his back yard to shield him from the big, bad hotel.

David Farley said...

Does anybody remember the horrified "think of the children!" campaign that erupted when (*gasp*) McDonald's was thinking of opening a place where HP Bank now is on 57th St.?

Zig and Lou said...

It is also interesting that Hans has a contract to run the Pub (a club by definition) in the basement of a university building. Pot. Kettle. Black.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I don't think the Medici caters many (if any) University events, but the walk-in deli business is very profitable.

It makes perfect business sense for Hans to oppose this hotel and shut out a restaurant competitor -- one that will have a liquor license, no less. So the only question is whether we're disappointed in him as a neighbor for signing away something we would enjoy.

I'm a little less sympathetic with the 179 other valid signatures, especially the ones who may have signed to get the petitioner off their doorstep, or because they wanted to "help" with a local cause, knowing they were vague on the issues.

edj said...

I don't understand HAns's logic if he thinks that. Everytime I go to a hotel for business, the last place I'm looking to go to is the hotel restaurant. Prices are too high. If you look around hotels, you generally find very successful restaurants that do good business from visitors looking to get out for a less expensive dinner. And he would probably do even better business for breakfast with people looking to pay less than $16 for an omlet.

Richard Gill said...

Morsbach and his neighbors just don't want a large building nearby...any building. Especially a building that might be used by people. What they want is an isolated suburban bedroom community in the middle of a city. Given the opportunity, they'd vote against the hospital, even a low-rise one such as Doctors; they'd vote against International House, too. They'd vote against Vista Homes (irony, anyone?). Victorian Harper Avenue, after all, is the "real" Hyde Park, with dibs on deciding what fits in everywhere within a mile.

edj said...

I was thinking the same thing. Why don't we just get the university to relocate Harper Avenue to Tinley Park where they'd be happier?

Richard Gill said...

EDJ, you may be onto something. But Tinley Park is much too dynamic a community. First, there's the Tweeter Center, which attracts large numbers of PEOPLE (bad) who want to have FUN (bad). Then, there's the local park district whose slogan is "The Fun Starts Here," (bad, bad, double bad). Even worse, Tinley Park has RAILROAD TRACKS with commuter TRAINS (Oh-my-God!). I'll bet Metra goes out there on a weekly basis, specifically to hack down trees and annoy people.

No, I was thinking of a town like Amboy, Illinois, in Lee County. I haven't heard much lately about Amboy as a fun place. Even better, the railroads are gone...all of them: the Illinois Central, Chicago Burlington & Quincy, and the Lee County Central Electric Railroad. The Amboy train station is now a restaurant or something. They may even have a wind farm or two out there. Wouldn't the good naysayers of Harper Avenue enjoy having one of those things casting shadows and whap-whap-whapping away at their back yards?

chicago pop said...

Wind farms in Jackson Park, anyone?

The horror! Better global warming than something blocking my view!

Raymond said...

Wait a minute...Hans runs the U of C Pub? So, when I go there for trivia on Tuesday nights I'm putting money in his pocket? Ugh.

Urban Domestic Goddess said...

Wow, this post and the pictures of Normal bring back so many great memories. I grew up near Normal and went to ISU. Normal is such a fun, cool town. I really wanted to live and work there after graduation but couldn't find a job there (this was during the last bad recession in the early 90s), so I ended up in HP instead.

Advanced Analytics said...

Elizabeth, Medici caters many functions on campus. I, for one, use them for many meetings. The delivery drivers are busy delivering breakfasts and lunches to many university departments.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I guess I was under the impression that Hans's difficult relationship with the administration(historically over renting space and expanding operations on 57th Street) had an impact on his U of C catering, but Advanced Analytics is right that it wouldn't prevent individuals or department members from hiring him.

Jamie said...

The food and prices are not SO good at Medici's that students would stop there...However I haven't been in there at lunch time to see who DOES go there at that time. Their upstairs courtyard is hard to argue with on a beautiful summer/spring/fall night, I must admit...And while I don't drink alcohol, it is a lovely atmosphere even for a soda consumer. The atmosphere of the entire place is really fabulous...But as I mentioned before, the food is truly NOTHING to write home about. I paid $12 for a pasta dish I could have whipped up at home for $3...There was nothing special about it; I was upset that such a classy-looking place would serve such mediocrity. I think if the hotel comes up with better cuisine, this Hans fellow may have some severe competition.

And for those of you talking about trains...the Amtrak goes through downtown Normal; about 75 feet from Medici! How is that different?

My deepest condolences to Hyde Park and her lack of classy night life because of this Hans dude...Sorries!!!!!