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Wrigley Rooftop Owners Won't Get Second Swing at Cubs

An Illinois federal judge on Thursday reinforced a decision that last year put the brakes on a lawsuit accusing the Chicago Cubs of violating antitrust and breach of contract laws by obstructing rooftop views of home games, saying the bar owners who brought the suit cannot have a second shot at pursuing the allegations.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall denied a request by the owners of the Skybox on Sheffield and Lakeview Baseball Club that they be allowed to refile a lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball's Chicago Cubs of breaking a long-standing agreement with nearby bar owners who were promised unobstructed views of home games in exchange for 17 percent of the bars' profit.

Judge Kendall dismissed the lawsuit last September but, after obtaining new attorneys, the bar owners asked for a second shot. The judge, however, said that they had plenty of opportunities to amend their January 2015 lawsuit, including after she twice rejected attempts to block the Cubs from building new scoreboards in the stadium.

Additionally, the late-filed request didn't cite any authority that would make the judge change her mind that the scoreboards were a permitted expansion of the stadium and that game monopolization claims run foul of the so-called baseball exemption to antitrust laws, according to Judge Kendall's opinion.

"Because plaintiffs' proposed amendments would still be subject to the baseball exemption and because they have failed to allege a plausible relevant market, the court denies the rooftops' motion to amend the complaint," the judge wrote.
James Figliulo, the current attorney for the rooftop owners, told Law360 on Thursday that he plans on appealing the ruling on a number of grounds.

First, he said the Cubs breached a 2004 agreement with the rooftops that guarantees an unobstructed view of Wrigley Field.

"The construction of those scoreboards was not part of an expansion of Wrigley Field," Figliulo said, waving aside the judge's permitted expansion argument.

He also said he plans to challenge the baseball exemption directly, which has been in place since a 1922 U.S. Supreme Court ruling and allows baseball teams to have a monopoly over the viewing of their games.

The rooftop owners also object to the antitrust exemption being extended to the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs and an increasing number of rooftop bars in the area, according to the proposed complaint.

"These are owners and not the team itself," Figliulo said.

A representative of the Cubs declined to comment on Thursday.

The rooftop owners are represented by James R. Figliulo and Stephanie D. Jones of Figliulo & Silverman PC.

The Chicago Cubs are represented by Andrew Kassof, Daniel E. Laytin and Diana M. Watral of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

The case is Right Field Rooftops LLC et al. v. Chicago Baseball Holdings LLC, case number 1:15-cv-00551, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.