Hofbräuhaus developer says city clerk making ‘defamatory’ comments

This is an artist’s rendering of the Hofbräuhaus planned for a site off Illinois 15 in Belleville.
This is an artist’s rendering of the Hofbräuhaus planned for a site off Illinois 15 in Belleville.

An attorney for Hofbräuhaus and Hyatt Place hotel developer Chuck Keller sent a “cease and desist” letter to Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook, accusing him of making “false and defamatory” comments about the project under construction off Illinois 15.

Cook on Friday denied making any negative comments about the project but said he talked to one of Keller’s previous business partners about Keller and his sons.

“You want to sue me? Bring it on,” said Cook, who said he plans to run for mayor in the April election. “But they shouldn’t worry about that. They should worry about getting their project done. But instead they want to threaten people.”

Ron O’Connor, a spokesman for Keller, said Keller would not comment about the letter, which was sent by St. Louis attorney Michael T. George. George could not be reached for comment.

George’s letter to Cook said, “I have been informed by my clients that you have been making comments about” Keller and his development “which are false and defamatory.

“In addition, you have apparently been reaching out to business associates or acquaintances of Mr. Keller seeking negative information about the … Keller family in order to disparage the development.

“The purpose of this letter is to demand that you immediately cease and desist all such activity,” George’s letter states.

George wrote that he will advise Keller that a lawsuit is one of the actions they could take against Cook.

Cook has opposed the tax incentives granted Keller’s project since before the City Council approved them.

“I would like to see the project succeed as much as anyone, however from the beginning I have stated we need to take our time and check out their financials and make sure everything was going to go smoothly before we rush into this project,” Cook said.

“Instead, it was rushed through and now here we are two years later and they haven’t made good on one promise.”

The letter from George comes on the heels of a letter Keller sent the City Council last month defending his work and asking for their support against criticism of the project.

“After two years of attempting to smile while hearing of falsehoods and innuendoes about us, our businesses and our family, we ask simply that people not interfere and rather allow us to do what we said we would do,” wrote Keller, patriarch of the Effingham family developing the project.

Construction on the Hofbräuhaus began late last year, and Keller has said he hopes it will be done by May 1. O’Connor has said a Hyatt Place hotel is being planned for the site.

The project was first announced in early 2015, and the City Council has since approved about $38 million in tax incentives based on city tax revenue generated at the site.

Belleville is paying over $2 million to extend sewer lines to the site across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.

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