FOX LAKE – The owner of the historical Mineola Hotel has turned to eBay to sell the landmark property as he faces a trial next week triggered by a yearlong battle with the village over the building’s condition.
The Mineola is famous for its connection to gangster Al Capone, who once used the property as a safe house. The 128-year-old building has a starting bid of $2 million.
The Mineola, 91 Cora Ave., has been in the Jakstas family for 69 years and was run as a family business for decades before that, said owner Pete Jakstas, Sr.
Jakstas, 75, had planned to keep it that way, but a lawsuit filed Feb. 2 by the Village of Fox Lake over the marina and lounge’s structural safety has changed that, he said.
“Over the last year and a half the village has been on my case, trying to condemn the building,” Jakstas said.
He is due in Lake County Circuit Court on Wednesday to fight the village suit, which seeks to shutter the Mineola Lounge and Marina – the restaurant and bar operation on the ground floor of the property. The rest of the Mineola is closed to the public.
“What the village insists on is the restaurant and bar to close until the necessary structural repairs are made so nobody gets injured or dies in case of collapse of the building,” said Village Attorney Tom Burney.
The village wants the building vacated and repaired.
“We simply want him to close and secure the building,” Burney said. “We haven’t even sought demolition, which is our right.”
Fox Lake officials filed suit in February after attempts to bring Jakstas into compliance failed, Burney said. In April 2011, the village placed condemned signs up on the property, saying that it was at risk of collapsing.
Jakstas, of Fox Lake, later brought in a certified structural engineer to inspect the building. The engineer reported no structural distress, sagging, bowing or problems that would indicate the building structure wasn’t sound.
Once Jakstas filed the engineer’s report with Fox Lake, officials removed the “condemned” signs.
The engineer did point out instances of water damage, windows that needed to be replaced, and other problems that Jakstas said he continues to address.
“Last year I painted the entire building, and I have gone through trying to take care of everything that the village said is wrong,” he said. “I have not completed everything. One man can only work so much.”
“I don’t understand why the village is trying to put another business out of business in Fox Lake and spend money on a lawsuit. I am just dumbfounded and confused,” Jakstas said.
Meanwhile, his attorney Charles Smith, said the parties are “working our way to find some middle ground” to see if there’s “any (wood) bracing for structural integrity that would satisfy the village.” However, no agreement has been reached.
When asked whether working toward a compromise with the village would affect the property’s sale, Smith said “that’s all speculative, if we get a buyer.”
“That’s a real estate question that will all get worked out with the (buyer, seller) and the village.”
Fox Lake Mayor Ed Bender said he would prefer that Jakstas to comply with ordinances and continue running the operation.
“That would be my personal preference and I think that would have been the Village Board’s preference, but for whatever reason he has chosen not to do it,” Bender said.
The Mineola includes about 17 acres along the Chain O’ Lakes. The property has the restaurant, full-service marina and a home with five bedrooms.
Before the structure’s disrepair became public, the Mineola was well-known as one of Capone’s rest areas.
“He and his crew would come out to the Mineola to relax and get away from their problems, as the Mineola was a safe house,” Jakstas wrote in the eBay description.
The Mineola Hotel is believed to be the largest wood-frame building in the state, according to Jakstas.
It was built in 1884 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior and Parks and approved by Congress on Jan. 29, 1979, he said.
Jakstas said the decision to put the Mineola up for sale was a family decision, and a difficult one.
“We moved out here when I was 6 years old,” he said. “I have been here all of my life, been on the fire department, was on police department before I joined the military police, then I came back and started business.”
He said he was appointed the Emergency Services Disaster Agency coordinator for the village and “held that position for 21 years. I did the fireworks out here for 25 years.”
Jakstas said his family chose to use eBay to try to sell the property because it would quickly publicize the sale to a wide audience.
As of press time Thursday, there were no bidders.
– Northwest Herald reporter Jane Huh contributed to this story