Evanston’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled tonight to review five requests for city financial assistance from businesses totaling nearly $138,000.

Akmal Qazi.

Kabul House owner Akmal Qazi was turned down for a storefront modernization program grant last month because the previous owners of the building at 2424 Dempster St., whose Chicken & Waffles restaurant failed, had received help from the same program.

But city staff, at the committee’s request, looked into other options for helping the new project.


Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons in a memo to the committee for tonight’s meeting says the other options could include a loan secured by a second mortgage on the property, a loan forgivable based on keeping the business open and meeting local hiring goals, or a liquor and sales tax revenue share agreement.

The city ended up eating a loss of more than $150,000 on a $200,000 second mortgage it made for the Chicken & Waffles project, to turn a vacant former auto parts store into the soul-food restaurant, when the property was ultimately sold to Qazi.

But Lyons says  Qazi paid a market rate price of $540,000 for it and “did not derive financial benefit from the city’s write down.” and that the agreement benefitted the city by avoiding a long-term vacancy and facilitating the move of Kabul House into the expanded site in Evanston from its current location in Skokie.

And, Lyons says, Qasi is investing $500,000 to build out the restaurant site plus an additional $200,000 for equipment. Kabul House also is expected to double its staff of 20 with the move to Evanston.

An interior view of the former store-front church building at 711 Howard St.

Lenice and Tony Levy, owners of the Good To Go Jamaican restaurant on the Chicago side of Howard Street, are seeking a $50,000 forgivable loan to help pay for buildout costs of their newly purchased building at 709-711 Howard that they plan to turn into the new home for their business.

Their total build-out costs are estimated at nearly $315,000.

The Levy’s had unsuccessfully sought last year to purchase the city’s former police outpost building at 633 Howard.

2504-2510 Gross Point Road.

The owners of the Gross Point Plaza shopping center at 2504-2510 Gross Point Road are seeking $16,500 in the form of a forgivable loan from the storefront modernization program to make improvements to the building’s facade including new windows and doors and accessibility improvements.

The total cost of the improvements is estimated at about $44,000. The building houses MaidPro, the Jackline K Salon and a Soapies Cleaners scheduled to open later this year.

500 Davis St.

Ramakant Kharel, owner of the Mt. Everest Restaurant on Church Street, is seeking a forgivable loan of $10,700 for facade improvements to his planned new Red Hot Chili Pepper restaurant in the former Giordano’s space in the 500 Davis St. building.

The total cost of the facade improvements is estabmated at nearly $90,000 and the total buildout cost for the restaurant is expected to top $500,000.

600 Oakton St. (Google Maps).

The owners of Lake City Cleaners, in the former Schwartzhoff Cleaners building at 600 Oakton St., are seeking a forgivable loan of up to $10,648 to cover half the cost of a backflow prevention device and water pressure booster pump in the building’s plumbing system to bring it into compliance with the plumbing code.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. No to forgivable loans
    This practice should have stopped long ago. They want the loan to actually be a gift.
    If the business is successful, they get the loan forgiven. If they are not successful enough to pay off the whole loan, they in essence failed.
    If they fail, they walk away from the business.
    Either way heads they [the business] win, you [taxpayers] loose.

    1. City Loans…just say NO

      Anyone who wants to start a business shouldn’t even think of doing so if they don’t have the money! Simple as that!  Forgivable loans are a ridiculous concept.

  2. Government should not act as a bank

    The City of Evanston should NOT function as a bank. They are not qualified and it’s a recipe for corruption.

    Remember how city elected officials self congratulated themselves for buying a parking lot for $2 million in order to land Trader Joe’s, promising it would be a boon for taxpayers? They poo-pooed the idea that Trader Joe’s would run out either Jewel or Whole Foods, both which are located on the same block. Well, Whole Foods across from Trader Joe’s is now closing.

    I predicted it would take three years for it to happen and I was close. In essence, the city paid $2 million to get Trader Joe’s but lost Whole Foods. Not a great tradeoff and our elected city officials, including Mark Tendam and Melissa Wynne, happily voted for it, denying it would harm the other two grocery stores next door. Are you happy with your property tax bill, the first installment due very soon?


  3. NO Loans

    The City of Evanston should not give away taxpayer money in the form of a forgivable loan.

    I understand why the business owners would make this request, but the Alderman should act like responsible adults and JUST SAY NO. The business owners should bear the risk, and if they need outside capital, they can go to a bank or another financial institution and get a “real” loan.

    The City of Evanston needs to get out of the banking business.

    One of the many reasons I am voting for Steve Hagerty is that he is very clear on this issue. Steve will not support loaning or giving away taxpayer money to businesses.

    1. Thank you.  You just helped

      Thank you.  You just helped me make my decision on who to vote for.  As a small business owner in Evanston too, if I need money to help my business I go to the bank and take out a loan.  The City of Evanston is NOT a bank.  I wish they would STOP acting like one and wasting our money away.

  4. No loans should be

    No loans should be forgiveable.  Look at all of the empty retail spaces in Evanston, with an economic development group we continue to pay.

  5. And I can guess…

    And I can guess that you’ll sell out to all of them.  Wish you were that generous with property-tax rebates.

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