“I’m absolutely light as air because I’m not in a law suit, and I’m absolutely devastated because I had to give up my restaurant.”
Glenn Fahlstrom, 60, creator of the eponymous Glenn’s Diner, 1820 W. Montrose Ave., has relinquished his ownership stake and cut all ties with the popular Ravenswood diner and seafood restaurant in order to terminate a long-running lawsuit with his one-time silent partner Larry Jones. Fahlstrom says the suit ruined his personal finances and the settlement, which requires him to leave the restaurant, was his only choice.
“I’m utterly devastated and heartbroken here. But I’m finally free of the lawsuit with my partner,” Fahlstrom told Center Square Journal. “I had to give up my restaurant to fix my finances and to avoid personal bankruptcy.”
restauranteur restaurateur, who claims a stint in the Playboy VIP Club kitchen and back-of-house experience in a string of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, had his first ownership stake with Desire, a cajun spot on Old Town’s Wells St. Later he owned the Davis Street Fishmarket and the Belmont Harbor Fishmarket in the 1980′s, which provided him an experience that ultimately inspired Glenn’s Diner.
After the Fishmarkets closed, Fahlstrom returned to his original love, acting and directing. A classically trained actor from the Goodman School of Drama (now the Theatre School at DePaul University), Fahlstrom performed at the Victory Gardens Theater and the now-closed Body Politic Theater through the 1990′s. Eventually finding fewer roles as he aged, Fahlstrom went back to the restaurant business.
“I wanted to make an amalgam of what I liked to eat, like diners, and I had a great knowledge of seafood from my seafood background with Belmont Harbor [Fishmarket],” said Fahlstrom.
That brainstorm led to the famous wall of cereal boxes (“We’re probably the only cereal wall in the country,” said Fahlstrom), for the restaurant that quietly opened in 2005. But by 2008 it was a raging hit with an appearance on The Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” and long lines every weekend night.
Despite the success, Fahlstrom says he and his silent partner, Jones, never really got along and the feuding got worse as the years passed. Then in April 2009, Jones filed suit against Fahlstrom for undisclosed reasons, which taxed Fahlstrom personally and financially.
“I’d be walking around tables talking to people, with people saying ‘Hey, this is great! Good for you!’ and then at home I’d be wondering how I’d pay the bills. All the money went to the legal bills,” Fahlstrom said this afternoon.
“Once you get involved in these things [legal suits], it’s almost impossible to extricate yourself. Mounting fees, hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
“I ran out of money. I didn’t have the money any more. The dichotomy of owning a successful restaurant and seeing my finances go down was stressful to say the least.”
Jones has taken control of the restaurant, Fahlstrom says, and he plans to take a few months off. What then?
“I’m going to open another restaurant, you can count on it,” said Fahlstrom. “The exact same thing.”
But a somewhat different name. Because the legal settlement doesn’t allow him to call it “Glenn’s Diner”.