Evanston’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled to vote tonight on a request for a $200,000 loan to open a Chicago’s Home of Chicken and Waffles restaurant on the west side.
The restaurant would be located at 2424 Dempster St. in a foreclosed property that once housed a NAPA auto parts store.
Rosemary Barnett Malone, Tonya Van Dyke-Johnson and Darnell Johnson own and operate two restaurants of the same name — one in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, the other in Oak Park.
A city staff memo on the project says the owners expect to hire 76 people, most from Evanston, to work in the new restaurant here.
They have an option to purchace the site for $282,500 — a price that city staff says is well below the property’s 2010 appraised value of $375,000.
They anticipate spending $482,000 to build out and equip the restaurant.
Top: A rendering of the proposed restaurant exterior. Above: The now-closed auto parts store in a May 2009 image from Google Maps.
The owners plan to invest $132,000 of their own money in the build-out and obtain a $150,000 loan against anticipated credit card receips from Express Working Capital as well as the $200,000 loan they’re seeking from the city.
They plan to make a $82,500 downpayment to purchase the property and have received approval for a $200,000 five-year balloon mortgage at a 5.75 percent interest rate for the purchase from First Bank and Trust of Evanston.
The city staff is recommending that the city’s loan match terms of the planned bank loan, with payments for the first five years based on a 20-year amortization scheduled and a balloon payment of about $173,000 due at the end of the five year term.
An interior view of the owners’ Oak Park restaurant in an image from the EDC packet.
The staff memo anticipates that the restaurant will generate sales tax revenue to the city of $135,000 a year by its second full year of operation.
The owners say the restaurant will feature savory fried chicken and waffles and other comfort food or soul food dishes in an upscale atmosphere.
City staff memo and supporting documents
Please do not subsidize unhealthy food
Please do not subsidize heart clogging food with public funds. If this venture is profitable, it should be so on its own, without a subsidized loan from a city with strained finances. We will all be paying the health care bill, eventually.
Whole Foods and Trader Joe's sell PLENTY of heart clogging food. Alot of folks in Evanston patronize Walker Bros. (which is in Wilmette, by the way). Why can't West Evanston have a nice establishment that serves tasty food? I don't see a problem with using public funds to give these entrepreneurs a chance. The owners have put together a funding package; public money is just a part of the picture. I wish them great success!
Offer them YOUR money, not MINE!
I see a huge problem using public money to subsidize any business. If you think there should be a nice restaurant on the westside, call up the owners and offer them YOUR money, not MINE.
That prompts an interesting question
I wonder how much of *your* actual money (or mine) would be involved in this particular project? That would be a fun project for an economist with lots of time on his or her hands. Obviously it depends on a variety of things, but I'm confident it's an inconsequential amount. You can still get angry if you want to, but spare us the capital letters and explanation points.
Where else does the money come from?
It may be a relatively small amount from each of us for this particular business venture but that is hardly the point here. Or do you not know where the money comes from?
In response to this post: "Unhealthy Food"
If you feel it's right to invest in this opportunity and that it's a swell idea, you should do so with your own money, not mine. That's called capitalism.
Don’t play dumb, you know
Don't play dumb, you know exactly why he mentioned Walker Bros. because he said why in the very same spot. He said a lot of Evanston residents go to Walker Bros. for similar bad-for-you food so why not have a restaurant in Evanston to keep residents and their money in town instead of going to Walker Bros. So don't pretend to not know what he is talking about to try and devalue his point, it's a childish move.
PS If you really didn't know why he mentioned Walker Bros. you need reading comprehension lessons.
I do see a problem
I do see a problem subsidizing unhealthy food to get a couple of low paying jobs for people who do not live in Evanston (they'll do best effort, but the proposal lacks any benchmarks or changes in the financial terms if they fail to recruit Evanston residents).
If it is profitable, let these entrepreneurs stand on their own. Same goes for Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, which, by the way, do not offer only heart clogging food, unlike the fried chicken and waffles place. Wilmette is really close, and there are smaller places in Evanston that sell similar stuff. No need to subsidize anyone.
The exterior visual
The exterior visual of this restaurant looks pretty darned bland, especially when compared with official website of Roscoe's, the Los Angeles chain that invented the fried chicken-and-waffles concept.
And when I think of fried chicken and Dempster St., I can't soon forget that horribly operated and now closed (finally!) KFC outlet at Dempster and Dodge.
Why should the City (i.e., us, the taxpayers) have to subsidize a business anyhow?
Why not pay as much as
Why not pay as much as possible to get commercial establishments to locate here? Subsidize them right and left, especially for Ann Rainey's benefit, and especially since Evanston has unlimited money to spend.
While we're at it, let's undermine the economic stability of businesses that have served Evanston for years and even decades without any subsidies. Sounds like another round of aldermanic reasoning.
Great thought! Let council members make loan themselves
If these businesses are so good, let the Council, Zoning Commission and others make the loan themselves out of their own pockets. If the business is so good, they will make lots of money for themselves rather than divert taxpayer money –even if good investment, we have more than enough things to spend money on — and put taxpayers at risk.
better not wear short plaid skirts!
chicken and waffles
I wonder if the village of Oak Park gave the owners $200k when they were starting their restaurant there? I wonder if the economic development committee of city council has looked into the owners' financial picture for both of their restaurants; are they deeply in debt or quite solvent? Are any of the owners Evanston residents? Will they sign an agreement to hire Evanston folks first, and others only if they can't fill the slots? Did they get the mortgage committment based on the City's granting of the loan? Is the City and the bank pursuing this because it is a black-owned business in the 2nd/5th ward? Do we remember the ill-fated black history museum on Church Street?
And pity the poor owners/developers of the Orrington Hotel, and earlier, Evanston Place, who did their respective multi-million dollar renovation/construction without a penny of City money! How dumb was that?
Investment, not charity
Unlike the history museum, this will generate 135k of annual sales tax revenue for the city, as well as property tax revenue for the city and schools. If the site remains vacant, it generates zilch, so the rest of us cover the city's budget hole. Given that, a loan with a market rate of interest to help the business get off the ground is an excellent investment for the city. Yes, we bear the risk of loss if it goes bust, but if it hangs on for two years, we will probably cover our initial investment. The Bronzeville location has a delicious (if unhealthy) menu, so hopefully the Dempster site will be able to stay open for at least a few years. Grab lunch there when it opens — a new culinary experience and help the city's tax base.
Banks should invest in restaurants, not city governments
If investors think this pancake house is a good investment, they should take this risk with their money, through a bank.
I, personally, do not want my tax money "invested" in private businesses by city council. I do not believe it is the role of city government to do this. I do not believe the members of any city government are better than bankers, and other professional investors, who have an entire team specifically designed to decide if a business is credit worthy.
If banks are not giving loans right now to these businesses, perhaps its because investing in pancake houses and wine bars is not a good idea right now, or perhaps because the owners are not credit worthy! Ted Mavriks did not seem to have difficulty obtaining funding for his business ideas.
I believe the city government should only be in the business of distributing tax weatth through providing services to it's residents or improving infrastructure such as parks, community centers, and libraries- things that the private sector will never do.
It is quite evident from recent expenditures that those on city council believe that they do believe that city council should invest in private business.
ONly time will tell if these investments actually yield a profit. Is there anyone on city council who actually monitors past investments such as this? Do they have a plan to monitor whether the investments were sucessful? Will they even care once their terms are over?
Per the story, a bank is in fact making a loan, and the city is making one side by side. The bank makes its decision to lend based on the likelihood of being repaid principal and interest. The city has to ask about that but also about what happens if it doesn't make the loan — no property or sales tax from that site, increased costs for building and police departments monitoring a vacant and deteriorating property, effect of an eyesore property along a major arterial street on perceptions and property values, etc. Factor all of that in, along with the fact that private lenders think it's a good credit risk, and it's a strong case. I'll see you there at lunch next year.
PUblic Risk-private gain
To me, it's not about whether or not this one particular "investment" will work- I don't believe local government should allocate tax money to pay for private enterprise, ever.
Not for wine bars, Trader Joes, nor pancake houses. NOt for facade improvement on buildings, nor grants to special business districts for marketing reasons. Not to create studies to see if private theaters can make a profit and should be built. Not for studies to see if a private companies could make enough energy to profit from windmills. Not for new high rises or buildings to pay for marketing materials.
This is publicizing the risk and privatizing the gain. This mentality is ripe for corruption and "friends" getting special loans and deals.
Instead, keep tax rates low and encourage new business with the knowledge that if investors succeed, they can keep their earned profits, and the money won't be mooched away to pay for a special grant to a politically connected business.
Decrease regulatory fines and local red-tape. Be willing to change the liquor license laws if a reputable business owner wants to invest $1 milion of his own dollars in a space but doesn't want to install a kitchen.
With tax money, I believe that the local government should
1. Provide services to the citizens who live within the taxing district
2. improve local public infrastructure(parks, signage, streets, etc) , streetscapes, public buildings.
Jen, we’re living in Oz when it comes to education, too
I agree with you, Jen. But we are living in the Land of Oz here. I knew that Evanston was quirky but I didn't know that its governmental units (city and schools) are totally out of touch with reality.
You note the many missteps of city government. I don't know if you have children but please allow me to list some of the poor educational decisions made by D65 that have weakened our educational system while draining hard-earned cash from mistreated taxpayers. I regret the long post but detail is necessary to explain this lunacy.
District 65 seems to be determined to drive for mediocrity for all. There are far too many tests and far too little learning in class.
Most of what my children learn happens at home at night and on the weekends. I have witnessed that they come home with almost no knowledge of the subject from their time in the classroom. Instead, they engage in busy work in class — lots of drawing and coloring in social studies and reading/language arts, watching mindless movies (including Disney movies — yes, in middle school) and using complicated computer software that the teachers don't demonstrate at all. In our experience, almost no textbooks are allowed out of the building so we look up math concepts, social studies information and science basics on the internet. After a few weeks of this frustration with my first child in middle school, I purchased virtually all of my children's textbooks online so that my children would have access to this information whenever they wished and I've done it every year since. Here's the really frustrating part — despite the failure to use the books in class to teach, the tests come rapid fire and demand that your child know the content of these books that they barely see. Who is surprised that children in poverty don't succeed when they aren't taught in school and they don't have textbooks to use at home to learn or do their homework?
Because my children actually learn content at home, they are frequently used as tutors in small groups for those students who have not been taught and who don't see the textbooks. This is frustrating for them as they go over the same content multiple times to try to teach other students. Yes, you can learn a subject in more detail by teaching others but remember that these are pre-teens and young teens (ages 11, 12 and 13). There are very few intellectual challenges unless we provide them at home. And the other children are not always responsive learners. My children have been called names and belittled for trying to tutor these children as the teacher assigned so my children come home feeling badly about themselves. For many students, doing well in class is a badge of dishonor and they ridicule those who achieve. My children have become frustrated with this cycle of not learning in class, learning at home (so their "school day" is longer with less time for other activities like sports and arts), being required to teach other kids and then being called names by their classmates simply because they know the course content and the teacher wants them to teach it.
With this approach to learning by D65, is anyone surprised that there is an achievement gap for students in poverty? In this system, if you don't have parents who are integrally involved in teaching content to you and who are financially able to purchase the textbooks, how exactly do you learn? Only from your classmates?
Also see D65's latest goofy idea of laying off art teachers (especially focused at high-poverty schools — Dawes and Oakton). This means that the arts will be taught by traveling teachers who do not develop any connection to the students in a school because they are in the car half the day. The art program is working well now but, as usual, D65 must mess with what should not be changed.
Then there is the ill-conceived change in the math program ridiculously named "Acceleration for All". It actually means that the accelerated class that some students have earned by their advanced math work would be gone. As is typical for D65, the math program is working well (it is the one saving grace of the D65 education) but D65 must destroy it. The stated reason for this change: race. The architect of this lunacy admitted that this half-baked idea will become our children's math program because of the skin tone of those students who are in the achieving group. So bye, bye accelerated math class.
I regret having my children in D65 for this long. We would have to take a loss on our house if we sold it and we have been reluctant to do that. But we have reached the point that I am willing to take that loss so that my children can have a quality education somewhere else. I am certain that others have had a different experience in D65 but I know others whose experience mirrors ours. How pathetic for our community. I'll write about ETHS later as they have also slid into mediocrity in the last 2-3 years.
School Board Members are critically important
Dear Anonymous1 – Keep up your fight, you are not alone. Our family has one child in ETHS, one in middle school, and 2 in elementary(all in D65). We fully echo your issues and concerns.
Everything starts with the school board, for both District 202 and District 65. The school boards hire the superintendents and create policy that both administrations are supposed to execute and implement. The school boards DO NOT administrate, but they are supposed to hold each respective administration responsible for the results.
It is clear over the 20+ years we've lived in Evanston that the competency of the school board has ebbed and flowed. During good times, people assume everything is fine and don't pay attention to issues at the schools. Incompetent people get elected and poor policies get implemented. People get upset and start paying attention again. This is a natural cycle.
We're at the people getting upset again phase. Everyone wants all students to succeed to the best of their abilities. But both boards and administrations continue to chase their tails in the never ending "achievement gap" saga. Excuses are made and ill conceived programs are implemented. Time is wasted. Our community needs to take a step back and think about the UNDERLYING CAUSES for the persistent achievement gap (this is not just an Evanston issue, but a national issue) and then develop interventions, and programs to address the UNDERLYING CAUSES. Until people engage in a frank, thoughtful and comprehensive discussion, we won't make progress.
And sadly the kids will suffer. And it's the children who need the most help who suffer the most.
The good news is that there are some very competent and committed board members on both D202 & D65.
And we thank those board members for all their effort and work.
It all starts with the school board.
I know of all that you describe, and I agree with you.
The bar of excellence is being taken away at D65 schools. WE can talk about acceleration for all in math, but the reality is that not everyone wants to work hard enough to excel. NOt everyone has the talents to excel at traditional academics-
Some, on the otherhand, can excel at sports, arts, construction, etc- The world needs all these talents- We need to let the high level math and science students excel, because these are the children who will be revolutionizing our future. We need the arts because these are the children who will remind us of the beauty of life.
Racism can be defined as believing that a certain group of people can not acheive due to their skin color. The very nature of what is happening at both D65 and ETHS, of removing the bar because not enough children of color are in top classes, is racist, to me. What are we saying? CHildren of color can't get there just like everyone else, so we have to lower the bar? Nonsense. CHildren of all colors can work and acheive on their own two feet. Those who can jump to a higher bar should be pushed too.
Can we incorporate more literature from the persepctives of different races? Yes. Can we talk about all sides of history and the injustice done to different races? Yes. We must know our past mistakes so we do not repeat them.
Then, we need to stop looking backwards and look foward to a world where children are judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
Good luck with your decision.
I don't send my kids to D65 schools.
Did someone say Fried
Did someone say Fried Chicken! I LOVE fried chicken!!!!
Are we the Senior Secured Lender in ALL these Council Loans?
If the Wine Bar, Waffle House, housing development, etc. go bankrupt, has the Council iron-clad contracts that the City is the Senior Secured lender and that we come first for the assets and 100% of all investment and interest ?This should not apply only to the types of loans as above but recovery of assets from all the 'gifts' made like fences around the theater cafe, $10,000 moving gift for Borders to their [now closed] location, etc..
Very good question. Here's another: Was the bank loan conditional based on Evanston funding?
I can't immediately verify it but there is a fried chicken place in Evanston that has supposedly been rated one of the best in the area. [I have no stake in this.]
The Chicken Shack on Ridge north of Emerson is the place. Granted not much to look at and for years I had thought it had long been abandoned—partly due to its hours. For some reason they never seem to have chicken ready to go so you either have to wait while they cook it or call ahead. I personally like KFC better but we don't really have many choices anymore.
Don’t underwrite the loans
Evanston taxpayers should NOT underwrite the loans for the proposed chicken and waffle restaurant. According to the American Restaurant Association, 47 percent of restaurant start-ups fail within three years.
Our city manager wants to reduce or eliminate funding for Evanston's recreation department, which offers a positive influence for youth by providing activities and education. Underwriting a restaurant (such as Chicken and Waffle) across from a school (King Lab) reinforces the idea of unwise nutritional choices,and sends a message of eating this way. Underwriting healthy recreational choices for Evanston family and youth is a far wiser choice.
“The owners expect to hire 76 people, most from Evanston, to work in the new restaurant here."
Do the terms of this loan guarantee that at least 50 percent will be Evanston residents? I am dismayed by the choices the city manager is bringing to the table while supporting businesses that really do nothing to improve the quality of life in Evanston for our residents, families, and children.
Wine bar was riskier
The city opened the door on this by subsidizing and supporting the wine bar on Howard which is, in my opinion, a far more risky venture than this waffle house.
The women who own the waffle house have experience and success (apparently) and the wine bar – NONE. So, I really don't know how they cannot support this venture.
For those commenting about the type of food served — if you think it's too fatty, or bad…don't go!
Although not one to really believe a city should loan money to a business, if that's Evanston's practice — from the limited information here — this is a good bet for a bad practice.
This one is questionable
I have posted in support of many of these types of projects here before, such as Gordons and Trader Joes, Those projects made sense with support given to projects that have very low taxpayer risk with very high return probabilities. Classic risk/reward ratios. This one, though, is questionable.
If these owners already have two stores open, they should have no problem getting SBA financing for this project, especially if this is minority or women owned. The fact that they either didn't try that path or were possibly denied financing through that route is problematic. The fact that they are going for funding through the credit card receipt scheme, the restaurant industry version of a high interest pay day loan store, is also a very troubling sign.
The restaurant industry failure rate within five years is extremely high, most always because of undercapitalization. Credit card financing pulled directly from sales is a tell tale sign of undercapitalization. The bank has a loan secured by real property priced at distressed levels, while we are matching that financing with no collateral and all the risk.
Did the owners have trouble getting a bank loan?
You raise a good point.
I hope the City Council and the media inquire why the owners want a city loan, and if they were denied a loan somewhere else for this venture.
This is a good location for a restaurant.
Just What Evanston Needs ….
… another restaurant!! Restaurants seems to be the only business Evanston has. If you can't find a place that you'd want to eat at in Evanston, you're not hungry. And now these people what the beleaguered tax payer to subsidize this? I agree w/whoever said, if you want to subsidize this venture, take the money out of your own pocket and stop picking mine!
some more chicken remarks
dear anonymous: don't you love writing that?
my remark about the history museum referred only to the non-existent oversight by the city of the grant to the history museum founders, and the total loss to the city of that money and no history museum to show for it. tax revenue is certainly a good thing, but as an economist is fond of saying: there are no solutions, only trade-offs.
i would think that there would be other incentives the city could consider to encourage new businesses, and perhaps some considering of alternative uses for that money.
and how long have the two restaurants in oak park and bronzeville been in business? are they profitable? we presume the bank has investigated this, but given the past history of poor loan underwriting by big and small banks for "good causes", maybe this hasn't been scrutinized as carefully as it should be. i personally would like to try the chicken waffle combo; it sounds intriguing, and my grandson is a big fan. it is close to where i live, so that would be a plus as well.
and a comment to the person writing about the chicken shack on ridge; the reason it is not ready immediately when you go in and order is because it is cooked to order! as fried chicken goes, it is really good. and you can order by phone or on-line, so it could be ready when you walk in.
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