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Loop Billy Goat restaurant on Washington closing

Sam Sianis owner Billy GoTaverns. File Photo

Sam Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Taverns. File Photo

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Updated: May 21, 2012 8:42AM

A Billy Goat Tavern is closing. But the legend is safe.

The original, beloved, and as-mimicked-on-Saturday-Night-Live location in the depths of 430 N. Michigan is staying put. What’s closing is one of proprietor Sam Sianis’ earliest ventures in expansion.

It’s the Billy Goat location at 309 W. Washington. It never had the “double-cheezborger” charm of the original, but its relatively cheap lunches and drinks drew reliable patronage from Loop office workers, and it was a convenient stopover on the way to commuter trains.

Sianis said the tavern operated for 30 years. It is closing as of May 1, he said, because the landlord has found someone to pay higher rent.

“They asked me to renew the lease. They wanted me to pay $15,000 a month,” Sianis said. He said he previously paid about $6,500 a month on a month-to-month lease.

“I’m looking for other space in the Loop,” Sianis said.

Taking over the Billy Goat’s 2,700 square feet will be a Mediterranean restaurant, Naf Naf Grill, said Jonathan Zimmerman, the leasing agent for 309 W. Washington. Naf Naf has locations in Niles, Naperville and Aurora. So it’s out with burgers and “cheeps,” in with falafel and hummus,

Naf Naf “will upgrade the space” and should be ready by the fall, said Zimmerman, owner of Willard Jones Real Estate LLC. He said ownership is trying to give the 13-story office building a fresh look and believes new retail tenants on the street level will help.

Zimmerman also said a Verizon store will occupy the building’s corner space at Washington and Franklin, a spot that for years had Adam Brent’s independent bookstore.

Zimmerman declined to discuss the rent for the Billy Goat space. “There are some financial considerations that are involved in this. We believe the lease is fair in terms of today’s market,” he said.

The building dates from 1927. A low-profile investor, Ibrahim Shihadeh, owns it.

Billy Goat has six other operations in the Chicago area and one in Washington, D.C.

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