By AARON GETTINGER
A Fourth Ward meeting hosted by Ald. Sopiha King (4th) Tuesday to discuss issuing a public place of amusement (PPA) license for new restaurant 1 Fish 2 Fish, 5121 S. Harper Ave. in the City Hyde Park building became heated as attendees expressed serious misgivings about its name, which is similar to the black-owned Two Fish Crab Shack nearby in Bronzeville, 641 E. 47th St.
Peter Cassel, director of 1 Fish 2 Fish landlord Mac Properties, spoke on behalf of 1 Fish 2 Fish owner Jovanis Bourgoub, saying that skills required in restaurant management “don’t necessarily make for making good public presentations or talking about city licensing.”
Cassel described 1 Fish 2 Fish as an addition to the downtown commercial corridor, a mid-price seafood restaurant with 151 seats, a total occupancy of 273 and free parking in City Hyde Park’s underground garage. Its weekday hours are planned to be 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. with brunch at 11 a.m. on weekends.
Bourgoub said he was pursuing the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection-issued the PPA license to let customers who plan private parties at 1 Fish 2 Fish hire entertainment such as guitar players or DJs.
The question of 1 Fish 2 Fish’s name was immediately brought up when the floor opened to public discussion. Bourgoub sighed heavily and said he only heard about Two Fish two weeks ago. He said he had chosen his restaurant’s name after the Dr. Seuss children’s book, later saying that the restaurant would not incorporate whimsical design or wordplay in its menu.
“My 1 Fish 2 Fish has nothing to with New Orleans-style seafood,” Bourgoub said. “Nothing. Mine’s going to be more like European and affordable to everyone.”
Cassel said Mac Properties and Bourgoub have been working on the project since early 2016.
Two Fish, which serves seafood boil, opened in May 2016. Owner Yasmin Curtis said many customers at her restaurant, named after the story of Jesus miraculously feeding 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread, have asked her whether she is opening a restaurant in Hyde Park.
“I definitely think it’s serious business infringement in terms of the name, and I cannot express that enough,” said Curtis. She said that, if Bourgoub had searched “1 Fish 2 Fish” on the internet a year ago, Two Fish would have come up.
“You’re not in a different ward,” she told him. “You are completely down the street. This is business infringement.”
Bourgoub, who also owns the restaurant Pork Chop, said he welcomed attorney mediation, adding that he did not sue other restaurants whose names include the phrase “pork chop” or the word “chop.”
King said she did not foresee conflict between Two Fish and 1 Fish 2 Fish.
“That being said, I want to make sure that benchmark is not the law, because my understanding of the law is that there wouldn’t be a conflict,” King said. “But if there’s a conflict in terms of infringing on a business that’s already established, I would certainly have an issue with that.”
Meeting attendee Dawn Milhaus, who said she previously worked in the hospitality business for many years, expressed concern about a PPA licensed business being so close to Kenwood Academy and late-night patrons disturbing her elderly mother, who lives nearby.
Cassel countered that many other PPA licensed businesses are roughly the same distance from 1 Fish 2 Fish. Other Downtown Hyde Park businesses that have the license include The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. W., the Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Ave., and the Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria and Brewery, 5215 S. Harper Ave. He said that Mac Properties had written “nuisance language” allowing for lease termination in the case of public disturbances into its 1 Fish 2 Fish lease.
“We will not let [Bourgoub] do anything that harms our primary business, which is making sure that the over 200 households that we manage the buildings for on that block have a good place to live,” he said.
King said she assumed any public disturbances would arise “in evenings, when school is closed.” She acknowledged that the meeting would not resolve the naming dispute and said she wanted to have a conversation about 1 Fish 2 Fish with parents of Kenwood Academy High School students and the school’s administration.
Bourgoub said that none of his PPA licensed restaurants had caused public disturbances.
After the meeting, Curtis expressed hope that she and Bourgoub could resolve their issue outside of a lawsuit.
“I definitely think that the community needs more restaurants, and there’s a lot of different kinds of restaurants and there are many different kinds of restaurants in different neighborhoods, but I definitely think that we should have our own brand,” she said.
Archie Singleton, a Bronzeville resident, was less conciliatory.
“My concern is that we have an equal voice and equal treatment,” Singleton said. “This young lady started her business years ago. This guy here came up in the last couple years, and he’s taking advantage of what her efforts were as far as establishing herself. [Bourgoub is] piggybacking off of her success. That’s what we want to avoid at all costs.”