Sketchbook Brewing Company is moving out of its alley location on Chicago Avenue in Evanston and into a street-facing space in the same building.

The small-batch brewery, which has been operating for the past year, won a favorable recommendation from the city’s Economic Development Committee this week for a forgivable loan of $2,319.83 from the city’s storefront modernization program to help with the cost of new signage for the shop at 821 Chicago Ave.

The plans call for a new specially-fabricated metal sign replicating the complex style of the business’s logo as well as a neon sign promoting the taproom in the new space.


Aldeman Melissa Wynne, whose 3rd Ward includes the building, said she liked the plans. “It’s important to have them move out of the alley,” Wynne said. The ally location has drawn complaints from some residents living in apartment buildings on the other side of the alley, facing Hinman Avenue.

“The business is doing well, and we want to get them onto Chicago Avenue,” Wynne added.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


    1. In theory…

      Hi Z,

      In theory the program is designed to encourage businesses to improve their properties … which, in theory, makes the neighborhood more attractive.

      That, in theory, enourages more people to shop here … which, in theory, generates more tax revenue for the city, reducing the tax burden on the rest of us.

      The idea is that the storefront improvement does more than just help the business that makes the improvement — it helps the neighborhood, and the city, as well.

      Under that theory, it makes more sense to hand over a little money to businesses that are doing rather well, rather than ones that are on the verge of failing — since failing businesses are likely to go kaput whether or not they get the city cash and an empty storefront will reduce tax revenue to the city.

      Whether the theory works out in practice is somewhat difficult to determine, since it doesn't appear possible to do a controlled experiment to test it.

      In practice, it appears that sometimes the program has also been useful as a lever to get a business owner who has a really ugly storefront — but one that doesn't violate city codes — to make improvements that he otherwise would not have been motivated to do. 

      — Bill



      1. It’s good for the city

        It is hard for me to find something bad about this situation.  Sketchbook is a locally owned business making a popular product.  Tax on alcohol is high–federal and state excise taxes, local sales taxes, tax revenue on the occupied property, etc.  Plus the owners and staff mostly live in Evanston, so their revenue gets spent (at least in part) in Evanston.  A taproom is a destination, too, so you draw more people who will eat in nearby Evanston restaurants, shop at the stores in the Chicago-Main area, and produce even more positive revenue streams.  Hats off to Sketchbook, and I'm delighted to now have them as my much more visible neighbors.  Maybe my tax contribution to their new sign will get me a free pint 🙂

      2. In theory, the city is doing

        In theory, the city is doing the opposite they did with the chicken and waffle place.

        In that case, the city gave them a lot of money to fix the outside of the building and chicken and waffle started going down the drain then week after it opened. Looked like a bad business plan and not a great cook.

        In this case the loan is much smaller.



  1. I am going to miss the alley
    I am going to miss the alley location! It made it feel like a modern speakeasy, looking for the orange door in the alley and they going through a warehouse to the tank room. A very unique experience.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published.