Eviction suit mutes Back Room jazz club’s Fulton Market encore

Landlord, a JV of Murphy Real Estate Services and Creek Lane Capital, is booting a tenant that aimed to reopen after an eight-year hiatus

The Back Room Gets Notice of Possession from its West Loop Landlord
From left: Murphy Real Estate Services' John T. Murphy, C.Rain Productions' Rickey Rainbow and 318 North Carpenter (Murphy Real Estate Services, LinkedIn/Rickey Rainbow, Getty)

The Back Room jazz club’s final act may not make it to the stage as the musician and entrepreneur leading its comeback struggles to harmonize with his Fulton Market landlord.

Vocalist and record producer Rickey Rainbow spent nearly eight years trying to revive the Back Room, the famous jazz club popular with tourists that operated for decades in the Gold Coast neighborhood before its 2014 closure. Last year, it looked like Rainbow had found his chance, and he announced plans to open an updated version of the club in a new West Loop location at 318 North Carpenter Street.

But now the club’s landlord — which is a joint venture of big-time Chicago-based developer Murphy Real Estate Services and Creek Lane Capital — is attempting to take possession of the location, saying the Back Room has run afoul of the terms of its lease.

The landlord filed a demand for possession of the property late last month in Cook County court, a little more than a year after the lease was signed. The property owner claimed the tenant has failed to pay for and make certain upgrades to the space that were agreed upon in the lease. The landlord contended it’s owed more than $186,000 in a letter to the tenant filed as exhibit in the lawsuit.

Last month, the landlord demanded the Back Room turn over the property within 10 days, which the club has yet to do, the suit said.

While the Back Room’s website remains online, it’s unclear whether it’s yet opened its doors to the public for a soft launch or any concerts; the events calendar on its website is empty and instructs visitors to stay tuned for upcoming shows, while the website’s news and updates page is blank and tells users to check back soon.

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Neither the Back Room nor its landlord responded to requests for comment.

The lease was for about 6,000 square feet on the ground floor and second floor of the seven-story, 105,000-square-foot office building the joint venture developed and completed in 2020. The Back Room was set to pay $219,000 per year in rent for the first five years of its 10-year lease, with the rate going up to $251,000 for the final five years of the term, according to the lawsuit.

Before its closure and eight-year hiatus, The Back Room was on Rush Street in the Gold Coast.

“Carpenter Street was a great fit,” Rainbow said to TRD at the time of the lease, adding his search for retail space was delayed by the pandemic. “We looked in Fulton Market before, and a little bit in the South Loop. That’s when Covid came.”

Should the club close, it may not be too challenging to replace for the landlord, since Fulton Market has been generally more immune against the devastating effects the pandemic and remote work have had on commercial real estate.

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