By Igor Studenkov | For the Bugle
The company behind Pusheen the Cat online comic strip and the many images it spawned is moving into bigger digs, into what was previously a first floor retail space at 110 S. Prospect Avenue, near the Uptown Park Ridge Metra station.
Pusheen Corporation was already based in Park Ridge, at 104 Main Street. The owners were simply looking for a larger space that would be near the current location. Because the space is meant for retail use, the company had to apply for a Special Use permit.
The Park Ridge City Council held the final vote on the issue during the April 5 meeting. While some aldermen expressed reservations about potentially reducing the number of retail opportunities, the council ultimately voted 5-2 to grant the permit.
In his statement to the council, co-owner Andrew Duff described the company as an online retailer, but that doesn’t quite encompass what it is. Pusheen originally appeared in 2010 as a character in a comic strip on Everything Cute, a website created by artist Claire Belton and her partner, Duff. The comic featured several characters based on pets, but it was Pusheen that went viral online. By 2013, they licensed the cat’s likeness to Facebook for digital stickers, which only increased its popularity. By 2016, the company was licensing the image to 20 companies. During the April 5 meeting, Duff showed the aldermen some of the resulting merchandise, passing around plushies and T-shirts.
“I feel like I’m one of those judges on Shark Tank,” Ald. John Moran (1st) quipped.
Duff told the aldermen that, as the company expanded, they wanted to stay in the city.
“We’re a very Park Ridge orientated business,” he said. “I actually grew up in Park Ridge, over by Meacham [Avenue]. Most of our employees are actually Park Ridge residents.”
The space they’re looking for was previously home to Uptown Girlz clothing boutique. According to materials submitted to the city, the building owner, Gillick Zember Inc, has been looking for a retail tenant, but to no avail.
Duff argued that, since the company’s business is selling merchandise over the Internet, it fits the spirit of the space’s use. Furthermore, because the sales are processed in that space, the company will pay online sales tax.
Janine Meyer, a Pusheen employee, spoke in favor of the Special Use permit.
“It’s a wonderful company,” she said. “They love Park Ridge, and I would hate to see them leave if you won’t give them an empty storefront.”
Moran proposed an amendment that would grant the Special Use permit to Pusheen specifically, so that, if it moves out an another tenant moves in, the space would revert to retail use. The council approved it unanimously.
The aldermen then approved the permit, with Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) and Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) voting against.
Park Ridge City Council approves liquor license changes
The Park Ridge City Council voted 6-1 to approve the slightly tweaked version of the chances to package liquor license requested by the Beer on the Wall “beer cafe.”
As previously reported by the Bugle, owner Ryan Tracy asked the aldermen to increase the cap on the total volume of alcohol from 12 ounces of wine and 24 ounces of beer to 24 ounces of wine and 48 ounces of beer. For flights of alcohol, he asked to increase the caps from six ounces for wine and 12 ounces for beer to 12 ounces for wine and 16 ounces for beer. He also asked for permission to sell chilled beers to Metra riders, saying that “train beers” have been popular with his customers.
During the March 27 Committee of the Whole meeting, the aldermen removed the flights-based restrictions altogether, and approved the rest of the ordinance 5-1, with Ald. Marc Mazzuca (6th) voting against. It came up for the final vote during the April 5 City Council meeting.
As they considered the matter, many aldermen said that were still concerned that increasing the limit on total volume of alcohol would set the city on the path to approving something that would be taverns in all but name. And while they didn’t necessarily believe Beer on the Wall would try to do something like this, they were concerned that other, future license holders might.
During the March 27 meeting, Ald. John Moran (1st) proposed a compromise, only increasing the wine cap to 18 ounces and the beer cap to 36 ounces. The amendment was defeated, but when he proposed the amendment again during the April 5 meeting, it was approved unanimously.
While Tracey objected to the amendment during the previous meeting, during the April meeting, he said that it was a good starting point.
Addressing the council as a regular citizen, Park Ridge Niles District 64 board member Tom Sotos said that, while he didn’t have a problem with Beer on the Wall, he had misgivings about what was happening on general principle.
“We can’t continue to morph our [regulations] for businesses and individuals because they morph,” he said.
Resident Trisha Williams echoed concerns expressed by many aldermen, saying that, while she didn’t necessarily oppose having taverns in Park Ridge, she was worried about businesses using raising volume limits as workaround.
Ald. Nicholas Milissis (2nd) said he was okay with raising the limit up to the amended level – but no further.
“I hear Beer on the Wall saying that it was a good stepping stone,” he told Tracy. “I wanted you to know, if you come back [asking for another increase], I would vote against it.”
Ald. Roger Shubert (4th) said he agreed with Milissis, and Ald. Charlie Melidosian (5th) said that resident feedback persuaded him that Moran’s amendment was a good compromise.
“I think 36 ounces is a good balance,” he said. “I think it’s pushign the line – at this pint, I think it would be the line.”
Acting Mayor Marty Maloney made it clear, while he would vote for the amended resolution, he still had trepidations.
“I do worry that, as a council, we’re kind of backstaping into a tavern license,” he said. “If you are getting more revenue out of a tap than packaged goods, you are slow-stepping toward a tavern.”
Mazzuca was the only one to vote “no,” saying that he was still too concerned about those implications to support the resolution.