Every neighborhood has one of those places... the mysterious business that never seems to actually do any business, yet remains open... and you just get a vibe that it's not a good idea to check it out too closely. Well, the South Loop has one less such place, actually, since the news is that an Indian restaurant called Nepal House (from the same people as Chicago Curry House) will open on the hot South Michigan Ave. restaurant row at number 1301, according to the blog Sloopin. But we have to admit that we were more fascinated by the story of the business that just departed that space, A'Cappella Bistro, which apparently mystified readers of Sloopin for some months:
I've been there once and the whole thing is suspicious... It took years for them to open their doors and when they finally did...little to no business... Who has the money to keep the place open and partially decorated yet doesn't put any money into creating atmosphere and drawing in business...? There's no music or TV in the place, no liquor served, plasticware and cheep dishes, food prices are dirt cheap... The place makes me nervous.
Yelp reviews strike a similar note:
Wow, how do they stay in business!?! DO NOT GO THERE, PLEASE. They need to get their act together from the service to the food to the decor. They have a goldmine on their hands with a great location in the South Loop, but they are wasting it away. I can't even talk about the food...it's that BAD! Get a Swanson's Hungryman Jack or Lean Cuisine instead and you'll have a better meal for much less.
Most of the reviews and comments merely suggest a particularly inept small business. But there were other things, like the owner parking his car in a way that inconvenienced everyone else, yet supposedly never being ticketed even on street cleaning days, that suggested the type of person who feels they don't have to follow the same rules as anyone else. In the comments at Sloopin, some people started doing some digging in public records. And an intriguing story began to emerge. A poster using the presumed pseudonym "James Bond" posted:
Wow! I googled their dining room phone# and found the listing for, of all places, "VIP Secutiry & Surveillance" at, of all addresses, 1333 S Wabash. The plot thickens .... I wonder if these posts are being surveilled.
and a few moments later...
OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Manta.com reports VIP Security & Surveillance as "a private company categorized under Escort Service-Personal" . XVJSR
A search of the business license turned up an apparently retired, or maybe not, Chicago police officer as the owner. But in the end A'Cappella hurriedly cleaned out the space and moved out. And as we say, that was all the previous business— and Nepal House moving in will, hopefully, be an end to the mystery of what was going on at 1301 S. MIchigan Ave.