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Daley nephew helped Margaritaville get liquor license

Updated: November 2, 2011 2:38PM

When Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville landed a 10-year lease at Navy Pier last fall, it needed a liquor license from City Hall.

So the bar and restaurant turned to attorney Mark Vanecko, a nephew of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley who had helped other bars and restaurants get liquor licenses from City Hall.

Vanecko filed the application for the liquor license on March 18. It was issued on June 17, after Mayor Rahm Emanuel had taken office.

“It would seem you would want a local guy to apply for the liquor license,” says James Reilly, who, as trustee of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, gave the chain owned by the singer a 10-year lease at Navy Pier. “But it doesn’t have to be the mayor’s nephew.”

Reilly’s decision was endorsed by the McPier authority’s six-member board — half of whom were appointed to oversee the government agency by Daley. Reilly says neither he nor the members of the board knew Vanecko had any role with Margaritaville.

Vanecko, 44, who lives in Lakeview, is the registered agent for the restaurant’s owner, Margaritaville of Chicago LLC, according to documents he filed with the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office in September, a month before Reilly picked Margaritaville over nine competitors seeking a spot at the pier, the city’s biggest tourist attraction.

Neither Vanecko nor other representatives of Margaritaville returned calls seeking comment.

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