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March 2018 RNA Board Meeting

Ravinia Neighbors Association

Minutes of Board Meeting held March 1, 2018


1.       The meeting, held at Full Circle Architects, was called to order at 7:05 PM. Board members present: Mike Stroz, Doug Purington, Amy Lohmolder, Dan Baigelman, Justin Kee, Brett Tolpin and Ed Kugler. Mike Babian, Jean Meier and Jeff Stern were absent.  A quorum was present. Two community members were in attendance.

2.       President’s Report/ Newsletter Update by Justin Kee:

2.1.    Justin in May to August will be teaching in Chicago.

2.2.    Mike Stroz will preside and if he is absent (as may happen in July) then he will appoint someone from the Board to preside over the meeting.

3.       Treasurer’s report by Michael Babian:

3.1.    Account Balances:

3.1.1.  Checking - $6,648.02

3.1.2. CD - $5,311.89

3.1.3. PayPal – 0

3.1.4. Total Balance $11,959.91

4.       Publicity/Membership Report by Doug Purington:

4.1.    Publicity:

Doug always welcomes items to post on Facebook and will post them promptly. On the Website we need more input from the Board on a weekly basis or more frequently. Amy suggests taking photos and putting them up.

4.2.    Membership:

4.2.1. Two memberships renewal.

4.3.    Business Update on Ravinia Brewery and Wittys by Brett Toplin

4.3.1. The building permit was issued on Monday and RBC was going to begin build out of the brew pub and restaurant.  Unfortunately, they received some news that made the project uncertain.  The build out is on hold until a significant issue is resolved.

4.3.2. Ravinia Festival has sent a document to Ravinia Brewing 2 weeks ago that the name RAVINIA is exclusively owned by Ravinia Festival and they attempted to extract significant royalties, control and ownership for their use of RAVINIA BREWING.

4.3.3. This is despite the fact that the USPTO is registering the trademark and has not cited Ravinia Festivals trademark, that they don’t make beer and that there is no reasonable basis for stopping a Roger Williams brewery and brew pub from using RAVINIA in the name of the mark.

4.3.4. The unprecedented overreach of Ravinia Festival to appropriate all things Ravinia for themselves is having a chilling effect on the owners wanting to proceed with building out the restaurant. 

4.3.5. Moreover, we evidence the long history of businesses from Ravinia Hardware to Ravinia BBQ and Grill and existing Ravinia Coffeehouse.  Although we requested a response the day before RBC was to break ground, they have not yet responded. 

4.3.6. The RBC leadership is concerned about being unfairly bullied by one of the largest and most well-funded business in Highland Park and the potential for an allegation of trademark infringement after they invest more time and money into the beer brand.

4.3.7. RFA has no good basis to claim RAVINIA BREWING is their own or would cause their patrons to be confused.  However, RFA is flush with money and has taken an aggressive stance with respect to property of late – both real and intellectual, as well as other facets of their operations that is causing RBC to hesitate with respect to investing in the Ravinia neighborhood absent this issue being resolved.

4.3.8. RBC received its permit to restart construction on Feb 26 but has currently put the Ravinia Brewpub project on hold as it evaluates potential strategies or resolutions to the current trademark standoff.  If a satisfactory resolution cannot be achieved, RBC is considering not opening in Ravinia.  They are exploring other options.

4.3.9. This is a serious setback for RBC and they are requesting that the RNA stand with and support them in any way they can  -  particularly since there are significant wide-reaching adverse impacts to Roger Williams and other Ravinia businesses and its economic development if RFA is allowed to bully startup businesses, shake them down while onlookers tolerate it. 

4.3.10.    The Ravinia neighborhood desperately needs investment and revitalization.  There are thousands of examples of Brewpubs across the country positively transforming their local neighborhoods.  RBC believes the Ravinia Business District is ripe for a renaissance catalyzed by a brewpub that serves as a local gathering place.

4.3.11.    The RFA is a great organization with respect to supporting the arts and as an entertainment venue.   They should not shake down or suppress local business but rather support them and encourage investment in its home district.  Their business conduct of extracting pay and owning their brand is way out of line and hindering all of our interests of seeing a vibrant Ravinia Business District

4.3.12.    Brett asks that RNA Board take a stand with RBC. He states it’s important to note that RFA asked for licensing fees, not a cease and desist.

4.3.13.    Amy points out that Ravinia the town came first.

4.3.14.    Doug ask what can we do?

4.3.15.    Proposed RNA Motion as follows:           Stands in support and solidarity of Ravinia Brewing Company’s (RBC) use of RAVINIA as part of its compound trademark RAVINIA BREWING;           Supports the free and clear ownership and use of RAVINIA as a trademark, service mark or business name by any business or entity so long as there is a connection to, affiliation with or physical presence in the Ravinia Business District or area;           Is against any assertion or action that the word RAVINIA is a monopoly and exclusive to the RFA or any one entity;           There is no likelihood of confusion in the neighborhood or by customers between Ravinia Festival Association and their trademarks and RAVINIA BREWING or other Ravinia based businesses utilizing the word RAVINIA without the term FESTIVAL;           Discourages and disapproves any future overreach by RFA to suppress business growth in the community by asserting a monopoly for RAVINIA against local businesses;           Nothing herein shall limit RFA from claiming exclusive rights to their historic compound trademark RAVINIA FESTIVAL, subject to fair use.           The RNA will poll its members to see if they agree and report the outcome of the poll.

4.3.16.    Motion made by Justin who also since the individual board members of the RNA believes that RFA has overstepped its limited trademark authority and its actions are detrimental to the Ravinia business district, therefore we support the Ravinia Brewing Company use of the name Ravinia and will poll our membership to determine where they stand and report the results.

4.3.17.    Amy seconds and discussions ensue, primarily about how to do the polling since the individual Board members have already expressed their dissatisfaction with the RFA overreach. It is decided that Justin will write up a fair and comprehensive series of questions and pass on to the Board for their review before it is sent out. The deadline to get the survey out will be Monday

4.3.18.    Motion passes 5-0-2 with Brett and Mike S abstaining

4.4.    Other Business Update by Doug

4.4.1. Madame Zuzu’s: Closing in favor of a larger space in HP. Madame Zuzu’s is expanding. They are looking for a larger venue in Highland Park and are currently considering a few great locations, including one in the Ravinia District. The City is working with the property owner to find a use that compliments the other businesses in the area and as well as compatible with the long term goals for the district as a small-scale dining and entertainment destination.

4.4.2. Al Klairmont Project: The approval of HUD and the lender is holding everything up. The city has reviewed the permit plans and given pages of comments, which have been addressed by the developer. He has quotes for demolition, but will NOT start until our purchase is approved. From the City: Mr. Klairmont is putting together his applications for the City’s land use commissions. A public notice will go out once we have all the applications and required documentation. 

4.4.3. Former Ravinia Vogue Cleaners location: no further word

4.4.4. Viaggio’s coming to former Merlo’s location: Viaggio’s expects to open late April.

4.4.5. Former Shelton’s location: Recently a wine bar and small plate restaurant reported that they were going to submit an offer for purchase. A restaurant is a permitted use. A number of full-service restaurants considered this space but their business model would have required them to utilize the 2nd floor for restaurant space which was not feasible. Another offer was submitted by a chiropractor, which the property owner, Mr. Martin, accepted, pending City approvals. A chiropractic office on the ground floor in the B2RW zoning district is not a permitted use but rather a conditional use. The principal land use is a chiropractic office on the ground floor. They will also provide retail products for sale (water, water bottles, topical analgesics, cervical pillows, and exercise bands), and workshops on the side. On March 20th, the Plan and Design Commission will hold a public hearing pertaining to the conditional use at which time they will hear testimony from the chiropractor and members of the public. If approved, the chiropractor would open his office in April. We have spent a significant amount of time and effort to revitalize this district, as has the RNA. The goal of the SSA and the TIF is to revitalize the district and cultivate a small-scale dining and entertainment cluster, along with some convenience retail, and services. There are significant number of services business in the district, many of which are grandfathered in until such time that they close. A chiropractic office is contrary to the goal of the SSA and the direction of the Market study consultants.              On Shelton’s the RNA Board believes that its important that businesses open in the district and is therefore ok with a chiropractor opening in what was targeted to be a food serving establishment.

4.4.6. Mike S makes a motion. The RNA Board supports that a chiropractor be permitted to open in the space previously occupied by Shelton and we should report our acceptance to Carolyn Hirsch at City of Highland Par.

4.4.7. Justin seconds, there is no discussion. The motion passes 7 to 0.

5.       Newsletter Update

5.1.    We still have 1 2/3 pages of blank space. Justin suggests that we should now lead with an article about the RBC and the state of businesses in the district.

5.2.    Next issue will be Spring/Summer to be distributed in June with articles due on May 15. Then a Fall issue.

5.3.    We should be soliciting articles from High School and College students and the Board has previously approved reimbursement for successful submissions.

6.       Marketing Efforts

6.1.    Previously authorized $500 as a contribution towards Farmers’ Market reusable bags if it has our logo on it.

6.2.    But the logo is dated and does not translate well to graphics. Dan presents 3 samples and it is the sense of the Board that we all liked the green one and a final update will be sent to the Board for its approval.

6.3.    Sense of the Board that the new logo is on the tent, bags and next newsletter.

7.       How to support Ed and the Ravinia Farmer’s Market

7.1.    Supply pdf ad at no charge.

7.2.    Contribution to the reusable shopping bag.

7.3.    Article in the spring/summer newsletter. Maybe two stories, Mike B story about Ed and Ed’s article about the 40th Market anniversary.

7.4.    Publicity on our facebook page

7.5.    A full-page ad in our newsletter.

7.6.    Halloween Festival – Ed is considering this. He will discuss the the PDHP to use Brown Park.

8.       Other Business

8.1.    How do we drive more attendance from our members?

8.2.    Arbor Day Event – The City is in the process of planning an Arbor Day event on Saturday, April 28th.  Ripple will be reaching out to the RNA shortly to invite them to have a table on site during the event.

8.3.    Sense of the Board that we should participate

9.       Adjournment at 9:00.