The owner of an apartment building next to the Margarita Inn, 1566 Oak Ave., is suing the Margarita Inn’s owner to stop the Inn’s use as a shelter run by Connections for the Homeless.

Landlord Lawrence Starkman, owner of the Oak Ridge Apartment Building at 1570 Oak Ave., filed the lawsuit against Michael Pure, owner of the Margarita Inn, in Cook County Circuit Court last week.

In his complaint, Starkman alleges Pure’s allowing the building to be used as a shelter has negatively affected the surrounding neighborhood and resulted in a “loss of tenants, loss of income, and overall loss of value” for the Oak Ridge Apartment Building.

“The operation of the homeless shelter at the Margarita Inn, and the creation of the adverse conditions at the Oak Ridge Apartment Building, has made it an undesirable, unsafe, and unstable residence and caused potential tenants to refuse to enter into rental agreements at the Oak Ridge Apartment Building,” the complaint reads.

Color photograph of the exterior of the Margarita Inn, pictured in February 2023.
The Margarita Inn, 1566 Oak Ave., is seen in February. The Oak Ridge Apartment Building, 1570 Oak Ave., is just visible at right. The edge of the Halim Time & Glass Museum, 1560 Oak Ave., can be seen at left. Credit: Jenny Thompson

Starkman asked the court to declare the shelter both a private and public nuisance, issue an injunction preventing its continued operation and award him financial damages. The case’s first hearing is scheduled for Aug. 22 at the Richard J. Daley Center in downtown Chicago, according to the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

Quality of life issues

Starkman’s attorney, James Lessmeister, told the RoundTable via email that Starkman “takes his role as a provider of housing very seriously” and seeks to address the quality of life issues alleged in the complaint.

“Tenants have spoken out about how the effects of Connections rental of the Margarita Inn has impacted their lives,” Lessmeister wrote. “The tenants at 1570 Oak Avenue have the right to a clean, safe, and enjoyable homes.”

Pure, Margarita Inn’s owner, and Connections for the Homeless declined to comment. 

In a statement emailed to the RoundTable, the city’s Law Department said the special use application currently under consideration by City Council “only allows the use of the building as a rooming house pursuant to the Zoning Code. That use would remain valid even if a Court enjoined further operation of Margarita Inn on other grounds.”

The city’s Land Use Commission voted 3-3 on the special use application on April 26, sending it to City Council without a recommendation. It will next be considered by City Council’s Planning & Development Committee at its May 8 meeting.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from the plaintiff’s attorney.

The full complaint can be read below.

Alex Harrison

Alex Harrison joined the RoundTable in 2022 for the summer in between his undergraduate and graduate studies at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Since then, he continues to write...

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  1. I am struggling to understand how a landlord can claim that he’s losing tenants to a homeless shelter, whose primary purpose is finding permanent housing for its residents.

    I’d be curious to find out whether this landlord has refused applications from participants in the Connections for the Homeless program.

  2. OH MY GOD GET OVER IT. The homeless shelter has to go somewhere. Yes it will lower property values, but that’s an L someone has to take for the betterment of society. You can have a improved world, or your property values. Chose one.

  3. ***EVERYONE*** has “the right to a clean, safe, and enjoyable homes” which includes the residents of the Margarita Inn.

  4. As a Margarita Inn neighbor (within 500 feet) and former Connections employee who worked out of the MI, this is most welcome news. For three years now, CFTH has obfuscated about the unsafe conditions (documented in this case by stomach – churning police reports cited in the lawsuit) for Margarita guests, staff, and the greater Evanston community. A major reason I ended my employ with Connections was their disregard for basic common – sense safety protocols…

    The hubris of Connections, sadly, is to blame for this lawsuit. If they had made a sensible good – faith effort to work with their neighbors from the start, this could have been avoided…

    As I’ve stated several times before, none of us neighbors are opposed to the Margarita being used as a homeless shelter – but management of the facility *must* hew to basic community standards for it to be a viable success. Our unhoused citizens and our community deserve the very best, and Evanston has many fine resources that could make the Margarita a point of pride and a “win – win” for all…

    If the Margarita is to continue as a shelter, I suggest finding a new partner who will manage it responsibly. The Salvation Army would be an excellent choice, as they’ve a fine track record in getting people out of homelessness and into stable housing and stable good lives. If that were the case, my neighbors and I would not only gladly accept the Margarita Inn, but avidly support it with our time, money, and resources…

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  5. As an observer, who works in the area, I have never experienced trouble ,harassment or decline in quality of life. I am impressed with Connections commitment to being good neighbors, and hope others will join in to welcome and support their work

  6. Common sense tells us all that when you put a no-barrier “homeless shelter” in the middle of a residential neighborhood then property values of nearby homes, condos, and rental buildings will go down.

    All should know that the maintenance of property values is one of seven requirements used by the LUC to approve zoning changes. Three of the LUC members chose to ignore this requirement. This triad, led by Chairman Matt Rodgers, must live in a bizarro world. The three members of the LUC that have some common sense – led by George Halik (thank heavens for him) – are the only grounded members of the LUC. The three members of the LUC that didn’t show up for this critical vote should resign immediately. They know who they are.

    I applaud Lawrence Starkman and wish him success with his lawsuit.

  7. I said most people of evanston are hypocrite, when it come to their property they don’t want oppers close by but when it come to 5th ward school they chastise for black hispanic…hay round table you never had gut to print my comments

    1. Typical behavior for Evanston that want to be pretend to be on the left until it effects them (Phil Ochs wrote a song about these kind of folks). Evanston pretends to care about Hispanics, African Americans, POC, or the LGBTQ but they have to be rich for you all to care and heaven forbid they be near you. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness includes the poor and unhoused. I live and work near this area and I’ve never seen a single problem.

      1. I’m expressing no opinion one way or the other on granting the Margarita Inn’s special use permit. Just providing factual information. I am not saying whether or not I agree with the late, great folksinger, just providing info.

        The Phil Ochs’ song referenced above is “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” and it’s Ochs’ spoken word introduction that is what I think is being referenced:
        “In every American community you have varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals … an outspoken group on many subjects … ten degrees to the left of center in good times … ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.”