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River North bar with lengthy dress code faces first liquor license hearing

Bottled Blonde pizza and beer restaurant at 504 N. Wells.

A River North establishment that recently has drawn widespread attention for its unusually dictatorial dress code faced an initial city hearing Tuesday on an allegation it has been operating in violation of its liquor license.

The city’s Liquor Control Board complaint doesn’t address Bottled Blonde’s intricate, lengthy dress code, which some critics have called racist and arbitrary for its banning of everything from "overly flashy or bright clothing" to certain types of gym shoes.

Rather, it focuses on claims the bar has violated the terms of its liquor license by operating not as a restaurant, but as a night club "where the sale of alcoholic beverages was the primary business activity."

The Tuesday appearance was brief, with attorneys agreeing to return for another hearing in July. Afterward, Bottled Blonde attorney Timothy Fitzgerald said he couldn’t talk about the situation because he hadn’t had a chance to discuss the specifics with his client.

Bottled Blonde could be fined or have its liquor license suspended or revoked if a hearing officer eventually finds in favor of the city.

Two women who live near the establishment, which bills itself on its website as a "pizzeria & beer garden," attended the hearing wearing clothing that could get them banned from the business under terms of its dress code.

Miriam Waltz said she wore a jean jacket "in solidarity with the rest of society and my neighborhood."

Bottled Blonde started drawing widespread negative attention online last week for a dress code that runs to several paragraphs and bans, among many other items, "plain white tees, long tees, denim, flannel (not even around one’s waist) or zippers on shirts."

The establishment also bans "Jordans, Nike Air Max or Air Force Ones," sports jerseys, "shearling/fur, leather, jean jackets, short-sleeve hoodies or overly long hoodies" and "Hawaiian, tie dye, floral, skull prints or anything else obnoxious."

Waltz said Bottled Blonde patrons have been causing problems in the area for the past 18 months, and operators have ignored residents’ complaints.

"They have done everything to violate their operating agreement," Waltz said. "The neighborhood’s been dangerous. Drunken patrons leave, there’s been fighting in the streets, there’s been vomiting, urination in our alley."

"It’s been nothing but a night club that’s defiled the neighborhood, basically," she said.