Holly and David Reynolds.

City plans to lease the picnic shelter at the Arrington Lagoon to a restaurant operator came under fire at the 1st Ward meeting Thursday night.

Holly Reynolds, whose home at 204 Davis St. has a view of the lagoon, said the idea “goes against decades of effort by countless people to keep our lakefront free of any commercialization.”

Her husband, David Reyolds, said it appeared no work has been done by the city “to determine whether this would be a feasible project and what the city would give up to have alcohol served at the Arrington Lagoon.”

Holly Reynolds added that some years ago people thought it would be nice if people could have a glass of wine with a picnic, so a ban on alcohol in the parks was lifted.

The result she said was that “in front of the History Center you started having serious drug dealing and all night long you had drug dealing and drinking.”

The current city code bars alcohol from all city parks and buildings, except for certain special events.

David Reynolds said the city has only two lakefront shelters — the one at the Arrington Lagoon and another at Lighthouse Beach.

He argued that leasing the lagoon shelter to a commercial vendor would make it unaffordable for people who might want to have their own event there.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) said she was excited to see the interest among restaurant owners at a meeting with city staff Thursday morning, but that the city won’t proceed with the project unless it meets the community’s needs.

She said she’s heard from a lot of people who say that “if it’s done right, they would welcome this sort of thing.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. It would be nice to be able to grab a snack when we visited OUR lakefront. The taxes would be welcome too. If some folks don’t like living near a public park, perhaps they should move inland.

  2. No, thanks to the restaurant proposal. Yes, the restaurant sounds inviting, but it will also invite dumpsters, spillage of waste, rats, odors, etc. The restaurant will be too pricy for most. Now that the beaches are free, let’s keep all the lakefront parks free for all to enjoy.

  3. The city lost its chance for a lakeside restaurant when it failed to let the Pritzers buy the Harley Clark mansion. Please keep the lakefront free of commerce, free for all of us! It is fun to see all the picnics that occur there without any help from a restaurant. Evanston needs money; I would caution, however, about searching for new tax revenue in ways that would compromise the character of the city that made us want to live here in the first place.

  4. Love the idea of a lakefront restaurant/cafe. The edgewater one is great, there is a true opportunity to make the best use of this space that could make us a destination, help the downtown, create potential tax revenue for many of the project that are important to our community (like housing). The tax would be truly progressive by only impacting those who partake and likely taxing non Evanstonian. It is a perfect idea, nothing says it has to be open late at night. I think about Europe’s little cafe by the waters and enjoyable space for all there. There is absolutely a middle point between absolutely nothing and overcrowded/overbuilt. This would be an amazing community feature and could even feature evanston food/drink makers. YES YES YES!

  5. As a life long Evanstonian (in my 60’s), I have watched as so many complain about taxes here, but anytime there is any idea that may help reduce taxes complainers find a way to have the idea rejected.

    Recently it was about having food trucks at the beaches – well guess what folks, when I was a kid I could go to Lee St beach and by a hot dog and drink or ice cream from a truck. That same truck would then show up in the evenings at Boltwood Park (now Crown).

    The idea of having a nice all-season restaurant along the lakefront (Clark or LIghthouse Beach) for people to enjoy the amazing views is something we should all want and any tax revenue gained could certainly be used to help offset the costs of operating the beaches – especially now that they are finally free to residents.

  6. This is a great idea to enhance a PUBLIC park and raise tax revenue while building community. Many people already using the park and walking the lakefront would benefit from being able to stop for a snack. The issues raised and easily mitigated if they are true concerns and not alarmist nimbyism (i.e. close at sundown, have garbage cans/service, have police periodically patrol.)

  7. Wilmette is doing this too at Gillson with the Fat Shallot ( food & alcohol) we love that spot and went there often for dinner without even going onto the beach. The establishment cleaned their trash and I never noticed a mess!

  8. I am all in favor of a permanent restaurant/bistro that serves alcohol on the lakefront and generates some tax revenue. It is curious to me that so many people oppose it because it will be too pricey for most people. Have you seen the menu and prices? Of course not. You are manufacturing issues – just like the ones who think that by selling Pinot Grigio we are inviting heroin sales and needle exchanges to the beach. Come on. This idea is a way to celebrate our lakefront and bring a piece of Europe to Evanston. Allow us to have a glass of wine or beer, a plate of cheese and some charcuterie while watching ducks in the pond. Evanston has not made life easy for restaurant owners during the pandemic. Let’s help create a little community here on our lakefront!

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