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New Taco Land plans rolling out

Photo: Steven Gilmore, License: N/A

Steven Gilmore

David Adelman and Nick F. Sirianni, key members in the efforts to transform Taco Land.

The May 2 meeting of the city's Historic and Design Review Commission was supposed to be a routine green light for the plans to reopen Taco Land. But the legendary bar on Grayson, shut down after the murder of owner Ram Ayala in 2005, will have to wait a little bit more to be reincarnated — one of the commissioners isn't too sure about the art on the walls.

"Tagging is unlawful," District 8 Commissioner Norman Barrera said. "The city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars cleaning up tagging. Tagging should not be in existence along the River North, and whatever motion we make should stipulate you remove the tagging. … You can keep the murals, but remove the tagging."

At first it seemed as if the commission would go ahead and approve the plans on the spot, pending the murals issue. But Barrera, at that point the only commission member not willing to fully approve the project, wanted to take up the issue again after the commission saw the murals in person.

"I'm confident the owners know the difference between a piece of art and tagging," said District 4 Commissioner Michael Connor, echoing comments made earlier by District 5's Kathryn Rodríguez. "I don't need to go there personally and see." Yet four members agreed with Barrera, voting to approve the project, pending commission mural investigation. Connor and Rodríguez voted for the project but against the motion to micro-manage the tagging-versus-graffiti issue.

If the commission moves fast, Taco Land's rebirth could take place as soon as "four or five months" from now, according to David Adelman, a principal at Area Real Estate and partner of actor Ricardo Chavira in Tacoland Studios LLC, which owns the property. If not, the re-opening could be delayed deeper into winter. "The graffiti is part of the character of the place, and we want to keep it," said architect Jonathan R. Card (a principal at Urbanist Design, which is leading the renovation), but both he and Adelman agreed to take care of the tagging problem.

"We're happy to work with the city," Adelman told the Current, "and I'm confident the commission will approve of the art."

The idea is to keep as much of the original Taco Land as possible while converting it into a comfortable outdoor bar. "The bar will stay, the dance floor (or drinking floor, whatever you want to call it) will stay, but it will be opened up so you will see the tree above it and the river outside," said Nick F. Sirianni, development manager with Area Real Estate, who added that only the kitchen section will retain the ceiling and be turned into a seating area.

"It's more of a removal than remodeling," said Sirianni. "We're pulling out the parts that really don't function anymore and using what was before neglected, like the tree."

What about the music? Illustrations related to the project don't show any stage area.

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