Ward Eight opens its doors tonight

The much talked about new wine bar on Howard Street opens its doors for the first time this evening.

Owners Ann Carlson and Cody Modeer tell Eater Chicago that  Ward Eight, at 629 Howard, will have a soft opening event from 8 to midnight tonight and on a few other occasions before its scheduled formal opening Dec. 12.
Eater says "the 35 seat intimate space will offer a menu of local and small batch liquor, with a short, carefully sourced wine and beer list. There will also be a small food menu with cheeses, meats and sandwiches."
Original story
More stories about Ward Eight.
Update 12/1/12: And here's a report from a neighbor who dropped by.

Comments

So many reasons to wish Ward Eight well

Let's all raise a glass to another important step in the revitalization of Howard Street. 
For all of those questioning the wisdom of the TIF dollars, CDBG funding and rent to own contract -- if the bar does well, the City has invested wisely in the future of Howard Street and the city at large.  So hop on the el or enjoy the plentiful parking and spend some time at a fine establishment that is already getting positive reviews on the internet. 
This is a business that can attract new visitors to Howard Street.  That increased traffic can bring other viable, tax-paying businesses to Howard Street.  So check out the bar and spread the word to your friends.

Government Subsidies to Local Businesses

Today's front page article of the NY Times highlights the shortcomings from government financed subsidies/tax breaks to businesses. While the scale is larger for examples in this article, the concepts and principles are very similar for these issues in Evanston.

Given the number of recent tax breaks given to local Evanston businesses(Ward Eight, Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles etc.), it's important to consider the longer term implications and unintended consequences. While Evanston tax breaks and financial assistance may be appropriate in some circumstances, full transparency, disclosure and accountability must be provided to taxpayers.

I would hope that a report is issued to taxpayers to share the current accountability for tax breaks granted over the last 3-5 years, including 2012 and all TIFs. Are we as a community realizing the results today that we hoped for at the time these incentives were provided? Do we fully understand the risks taxpayers are assuming? How are these subsidies being monitored and evaluated?

Here are key quotes from the NY Times article:
- "the giveaways are adding up to a gigantic bill for taxpayers."
- "A portrait arises of mayors and governors who are desperate to create jobs"
-"A full accounting, The Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the value of all their awards. Nor do they know if the money was worth it because they rarely track how many jobs are created
-"the most important thing a region can do is to focus on education"
-"Mr. Hitt, like most political officials, has a short-term mandate. It will take years to see whether the state’s bet on Boeing bears fruit."
"Workers are a vital ingredient in any business, yet companies and government officials increasingly view the creation of jobs as an expense that should be subsidized by taxpayers, private consultants and local officials said."

Here's the link to the full article, "As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price"
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/us/how-local-taxpayers-bankroll-corporations.html?hp&_r=0
(In my opinion, a better title would have substituted Taxpayers for Governments)
I will follow up with my Alderman, Mark Tendam, and i would hope other community members will follow up with their Alderman.
 

Public accounting

I hope these businesses, as well as those in the past that the city funded, made loans to, gave tax relief or other treatment, included in TIFs, are required to give a quarterly revenue and profits report to the city and that the city is required to post that on the city's Web site instead of, as it is now, the city helps these businesses and then all analysis goes away---the Council hoping if they fail that the taxpayers will have forgot how the Council gave them special treatment---and they will still get re-elected.

Excellent article James

Once again James, you articulate so clearly the issues, thank you

If you, or any other citizen, receives answers to the accountability issues you raise, please share.

It doesn't appear that anyone keeps long term data on whether or not the taxpayer investments, in various forms, are profitable.

Personally, I find this apparent lack of respect for spending our family money extremely frustrating, coupled with the attitude that anyone who seeks a fiscally conservative approach is viewed as right wing nut job in Evanston.

Ward 8 more than tax breaks

Ward 8 is alot more than tax breaks, it is an interesting story, of the city of Evanston, setting up a Wine and Cheese Bar, when then can not even get the Robert Crown Proposal correct, or deal with the recreation center on Oakton.
City buys building
City staff renovates apartments at taxpayers expense, provides apartment to Wine and Cheese bar owners.
City renovates Wine and Cheese Bar, buys all fixtures.
Provides free lease on Wine and Cheese Bar for start up.
Its no wonder the owners could not think of a better name for the place than Ward 8 - we taxpayers own the entire operation and we built it. 
Frankly this whole thing is a joke, but given the jokers that run city government, what could we expect?
Given the place does not have a sign will we be paying for that to out of our facade funds? ( I guess I should not give Ann any ideas )
 

Just saying something stereotypical and wrong

Chris,
Yes, there is crime on Howard Street.  But the last two murders in Evanston have happened elsewhere.  And check out the daily crime reports.  While the east end of Howard Street is certainly run down and has crime, there are other areas of the city with as much, if not more, violent crime.
Given that information, perhaps we should all wear a bulletproof vest and have 911 predialed whenever we venture out in Evanston?
Please notice that one of the most diverse areas of Evanston (looking at racial and economic diversity) gets most of the snarky comments about crime.  That's unfortunate and wrong.  Just because the neighborhood isn't filled with big houses and a homogeneous population doesn't mean you will get shot or need the police when you go there.  Perpetuating the stereotype doesn't help anyone.

Anonymous1,  Sorry, but that

Anonymous1,
  Sorry, but that is not a stereotype and the daily crime reports mean nothing.  I've lived here for almost 29 years...I can take you to every good and bad neighborhood.  Howard, East of Ridge, makes the top 2 list for most dangerous in Evanston.
Chris

I've lived here for 18 years

And I disagree with you.  I know every neighborhood as well.  I can name at least 5 areas in Evanston where I wouldn't walk alone at midnight.  But within two blocks of the Police Outpost on Howard Street is not on that list.
Daily crime reports mean nothing?  Let's tell the police so they don't waste their time collecting the information and preparing those reports every day.
It's the willingness to proclaim publicly "quick -- hide under the bed" (put on your bullet-proof vest and keep 911 predialed) that will keep people from seeing Howard Street from Custer east as a viable area for businesses and their customers.  Not accurate and not helpful.
Here's an illustration from Chicago:  when I first rented an apartment in River North in the early 1990s, an acquaintance asked if I was going to buy a gun because of the rampant crime there.  It was an out-moded view then (but it certainly sounded in-the-know and clever) and that view became less and less true with every passing month.
Things are changing for the better on Howard.  Many Evanston residents see the benefit in those changes.  Why continue to live in the past and condemn this remarkably diverse area to be nothing more than what it has been in the past?  No area of this city should be viewed as a throw away.
I try to frequent shops on and near Central Street, Dempster Street, Main Street, etc. at various times of the day and night.  I would think that those live elsewhere in Evanston would give Ward Eight on Howard Street a similar try.   

Anonymous1,  And I still

Anonymous1,
  And I still disagree with you.  The area around the police outpost is the most dangerous area!  You have to be kidding me when you try to make this area sound safe.  And I promise you a lot more goes on that doesn't make the daily crime report...I hope you realize that.  And I can also promise you that most crime that happens on the chicago side, in that area, is not known to the public. 
  The area on Howard we are talking about cannot even be compared to those areas on Central, Dempster, and Main...I hope you're joking about that too!?  If I had children, they would not be allowed in that area.  And the "crime reports" alone justify that.  The dangerous past that has given these neighborhoods a bad name still exists...it's unfortunately not "the past" yet.
  I will agree with you on a couple things though.  That area is SLOWLY..very slowly..changing for the better.  I would love to see areas like Howard and Church/Dodge/Emerson move on in a positive way.  And they definitely should not be viewed as "throw away".   
Chris

what are your sources?

If you know of crimes which are taking place that are not reported in the daily crime report can you please provide your sources? I live just around the corner of the outpost (8 years) and I'm not seeing what your describing. Please, provide your crime reporting sources which brings you to state that this area requires a bullet proof vest.

I don't know

I think one would need to be tolerant and respectful of others. I take pride in my neighborhood. As I'm sure you do with yours. For the record "I don't know". And I will not let myself go there. 

Kevin,  It is not my

Kevin,
  It is not my intention to disrespect anyone here.  I think we'll just have to agree, to disagree.  There is no question though...Howard can be dangerous at times.  I hope this business takes off and starts a new trend on Howard.  I don't want to say "I told you so"...trust me.   
Chris

How about instead of whining about it, you visit instead?

I am thrilled to have an establishment like this in my neighborhood and understand that it takes government help to seed Howard Street with business that other businesses want to be near. I visited Ward Eight this weekend and was very happy to see how busy it was. I was very impressed with the menu, the decor, the service and, especially, the cocktails.

Throwing good (taxpayers) money after bad.

Ward 8 is not the only foolish expenditure placed on the backs of Evanston taxpayers. Our city manager in his enlightened delusions has decided to underwrite the money loosing Piven Theater (just FOIA their 501(c3) status tax returns), to the tune of over $1 mil. Placing the burden of another money loosing arts organization on the shoulders of Evanston taxpayers. Providing taxpayers money to arts, and cultural organizations is not necesserarly a bad thing IF those organizations provide outreach and programming to those most in need of such programming by opening doors and exposing both youth and adults to classes and cultural events to  people that might not otherwise be exposed to such. Providing 'free money' to profit driven restaurants does little to provide for those most in need.

"free money" provides jobs

I understand the logic and the goals the city is trying to implement with ward 8 and the theatre.  It may be successful, may not be, and the debate of proper use of taxpayer money here is valid.  However.
The idea that a for profit entity does little to provide for those most in need is completely wrong.  A for profit entity provides jobs and restaurants hire people that cover a full spectrum of need.  Some start as dishwashers for minimum or slightly above minimum, others wait tables often making $20 to $30 dollars + an hour, others cook, manage, bartend etc. etc. etc. 
That is providing "real" assistance to people that goes way beyond some "cultural events" and I would hope that the City insisted a few local neighborhood people in need of jobs were hired to fill some of those positions. 
If it succeeds, and maybe thats a big if, what isn't, then quite possibly others will follow, creating more jobs for more people who can then learn a trade and maybe leave the cycle of dependency permanently. 
To me that provides real, meaningful, long term change for people with needs and at the same time can also provide a community payback that happens on multiple levels.  IMO, it may be risky but it is also a worthwhile attempt.  
I have nothing but best wishes for the project.   

Do you believe in the former Soviet Union?

I also wish Ward Eight well. I wish all businesses well in Evanston.But that's not the point.
Do you want the "government" to decide which businesses to support and which not to support? What is their "criteria" ?
Do you want the "government" to play the role of real estate developer?
Do you want the "government" to play the role of a bank?
Do you want the "government" to play the role of job creator?
Do you want the "government" to become the former Soviet Union?
People have good intentions, it's just that all the hopes and dreams usually don't materialize from central planners.
IMO the government has an important role to play - they should establish the rules and framework to create a thriving and dynamic community. However, in Evanston they've gone too far. That's the point.
My suggestion for Evanston's One Book effort, is that everyone read "Animal Farm."
Good luck Ward Eight. Good luck Evanston.
 
 
 
 

Give it all to Ann Rainey!

Considering it's so hard to get a loan for businesses right now, the government is a far better job creator.   Let's all give 100% of our money to our city council and federal government, and let the elected officials decide where the jobs should be!!  Each to his ability to share equally with the masses!   Our government has a far better overview of all comrades in town than the viewpoint of any one individual.   Plus, the invidual is greedy and only thinks of himself, and the government will be a generous benefactor to us all.    Share!  
It's not fair that those people up north have nice restaurants while the people on Howard have to look at dumpy places!!   Equality now!!   Workers unite!
Take from the rich to provide real assistance to the workers!!

How many jobs?!

The place seats 35. It is a mom & pop operation run by two people (thanks to Evanston & Ann Rainey) who literally live over the store. How many people are they employing?
Heck, I'll be happy to start a business in the 8th ward or anywhere else, if the City provides me an apartment to go with it.

Proper Use of our Tax Dollars?

Once again, the City in their wisdon has demonstrated a clear lack of insight and understanding of economic development.  Why are public dollars being used to enrich private individuals?  Creating low paying service industry jobs is not economic development.  This is pure and simple a wealth transfer.  Oh, and have you seen the investment analysis completed by the city on this project?  This was a bad idea then and it is a bad idea now.  When are we going to take a stand and hold the city accountable?  When a bunch of sports organizations wanted to give the city $1 million, they said no.  They needed to make a profit off the children.  But it's OK to give money to a bar?   Did anyone at the city look at the statistics of "bars" surviving?  It's an election year and we don't even have competitive races for City Council in each ward.  We're just going to get more of the same.