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Illinois Supreme Court: Park Grill free from paying property tax

The state’s highest court ruled this week that the Millennium Park eatery, which opened with much fanfare nearly a decade ago, doesn’t have to pay property taxes.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruling affirms lower court decisions maintaining the Park Grill’s “agreement with the Park District created an untaxable license as opposed to a taxable lease” to do business.

The court’s ruling, the result of a 4-3 vote, was released Thursday.

The Sun-Times first reported in 2005 that the Park Grill wasn’t paying property taxes, triggering a legal battle.

Then-Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan worked to put the restaurant on the tax rolls, arguing that the restaurant really does have a lease, even if Park District officials chose to call it something else.

Assessor Joe Berrios, who won Houlihan’s seat after Houlihan retired, is reviewing the Supreme Court decision.

“It’s premature to say how this will be handled, but our first step will be having our legal team take a very close look at the decision,” Berrios spokeswoman Kelley Quinn wrote in an e-mail on Friday. “Until that is done, we will follow the ruling.”

An attorney for the Park Grill couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Park Grill opened in late 2003 on a prime piece of Michigan Avenue real estate — just below “The Bean.”

The Sun-Times revealed this week that the lucrative restaurant lease was awarded to Matthew A. O’Malley, a businessman who got a top Park District official pregnant during negotiations.

The newspaper also reported that O’Malley lined up a host of clout-heavy investors, including Mayor Daley’s friends and neighbors.

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