Evanston panel backs Chicken & Waffles restaurant

Darnell Johnson and Rosemary Malone.

Plans for a soul-food themed Chicken & Waffles restaurant on Evanston's west side got a unanimous endorsement Wednesday night from the city's Economic Development Committee.
"This is exactly what we need," said Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, adding, "I'll be a frequent customer."
Committee members said they were impressed with the detailed business plan presented by the owners, who already operate similar restaurants in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood and in west suburban Oak Park.
Operations Manager Darnell Johnson said the two existing restaurants, which have just under 100 seats each, are frequently filled to capacity with long waiting lines.
He said that the Evanston restaurant should do even more business.
He said it will have about 150 seats, including a private dining room that the existing restaurants lack.
"We do a lot of church dinners," Johnson said, and the existing restaurants can't handle ones for more than 20 to 30 people. "When people come to us wanting to have a dinner for 50 people, we just can't do it now."
He also hopes to qualify for a liquor license in Evanston, which the existing restaurants don't have, and anticipates generating additional revenue from that.

A rendering of the proposed restaurant's exterior.
Committee members practically fell off their chairs when even a long-time critic of city spending, Junad Rizki, spoke in favor of the proposal -- saying he was impressed with the money the owners were putting into the project and their well thought-out business plan.
The restaurant is proposed for a now-vacant property at 2424 Dempster St. that previously housed an auto parts store.
Under the plan presented to the committee, the cost of purchasing the building and rehabbing it for restaurant use -- totalling about $764,000 -- would be split four ways.
The owners would invest $214,000. First Bank & Trust of Evanston would provide a $200,000 five-year, balloon payment first mortgage. The city would provide a $200,000 loan on similar terms secured by a second mortgage on the property. And the owners would also take out a $150,000 loan secured by anticipated credit card receips from Express Working Capital.
Questions were raised about whether the 17 off-street parking spaces provided in the plan would be sufficient for a restaurant of the planned size, but other committee members said they were convinced there is enough under-utilized on-street parking in the area to meet the project's needs.
The plan now goes to the City Council for a vote expected at its May 14 meeting.
Top: The restaurant's operations manager, Darnell Johnson, and co-owner Rosemary Malone presenting the proposal at the Economic Development Committee meeting.
Related story
Evanston asked to help waffle shop locate here
Related document
City staff memo and supporting documents

Comments

I love chicken and waffles

But why does the city continue to invest in one of the riskiest small business types? Restaraunts and bars are notoriously risky investments (see this article) yet we continue to invest in one way or another (a loan in this case) in these. There is, after all, a reason banks won't lend the full asking amount to such.
I wish them luck, I really do, but the city does not have a great record in their "investments" so far.
 

Hungry Now?

For those of you made hungry by the reporting on this issue, really good to-go fried chicken is within your reach at the Chicken Shack here in Evanston at 1925 N. Ridge. The best way to order is to call ahead 20 minutes before pickup. They serve the chicken in a box with crinkle-cut fries, with your choice of  honey, barbecue or hot sauce on top or on the side. You can also order mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits. The Chicken Shack is an Evanston treasure.

The City should not be in the Financing Business

While I support this use, the City of Evanston should not be in the financing business.  By offering financing to any business, the City puts all Evanston tax payers at risk and subjected to the success of that business.  As a tax payer, I do not believe this is a role government should play.  the City has other business incentives it can use to attract businesses to Evanston without putting our tax dollars at risk.

City Economic Development

An interesting read is contained in the City's "staff memo and supporting documents" in a link just above these comments.  The last few pages of the 55 page report identify all the projects in the works or being considered for economic development by the City staff.  The status of some make for an interesting evaluation of the progress and the view they take. The rest of the document is all about this waffle-chicken facility and their financing and cost projections.
BTW since a part of their financing is based on paying off using credit card transaction fees, what happens if most of the dinner transactions are cash?... hmmm

Invest in education

If the City  finds itself with funds for investments in restaurants, does it not make sense to invest in something with far reaching returns, our childrens' education?  Seems there is a lot of improvement work to do in Evanston's schools.