A city committee Wednesday recommended approval of plans for a new carryout restaurant at 1723 Simpson St.

Robert Crayton told the Design and Project Review Committee that he initially plans to operate Rubies from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, offering a breakfast and lunch menu of egg dishes, deli sandwiches and tacos.

Robert Crayton.

He hopes to later expand operations into the early evening and host small community events in the roughly 3,700 square foot space. A supporter of the project, Monique Parsons, compared the meeting space concept to what Curt’s Cafe does.

But Gary Gerdes, manager of building and inspection services for the city, said having more than 10 people in the building at a time would require having two ADA-accessible bathrooms.

Gary Gerdes.

The building now has two bathrooms, but only one of them is ADA-accessible, and Crayton indicated they lack the capital to do that remodeling work immediately.

The committee also conditioned its approval of the plans on replacing the glass block on the Simpson Street facade of the building with clear glass windows.

The owners plan to apply for a city facade improvement grant to help cover the cost of that change.

The building at 1723 Simpson has had a troubled history, 

In a previous incarnation, as Ramy’s Foods, it was the centerpiece of a 2010 drug investigation that led to 28 arrests and charges of drug dealing and food stamp fraud at the store.

The property then changed hands and reopened as a grocery store in 2012, only to close a few years later.

Crayton, who will be leasing the building from its current owner, was arrested last April on charges of delivering heroin. A court hearing on those charges is scheduled for next Thursday.

In 2005 he pleaded guilty to charges of selling crack cocaine outside Lincolnwood Elemetary School, where he was working as a school custodian.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said that neighbors have told her they would rather see a full-service grocery store, or perhaps a coffee shop, at the site, but that Crayton’s criminal history doesn’t exclude him from applying for a business permit.

The special use permit request now goes before the Zoning Board of Appeals. It will make a recommendation to the City Council, which will have the final say, both on the use permit, and the request for city funds to upgrade the building’s facade.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Is he cooperating with police?

    I’d like to know if the Evanston Police think this convicted hard drug dealer is worthy of another chance. Has he finally decided to cooperate with them? That would be helpful in deciding if the taxpayers should bet money on him when he asks for a grant from the city. Also, is he using drug money to fund this venture? He obviously knows the Evanston hard drug network. Has he finally decided to be part of the solution instead of the problem? I give him credit for having the guts to ask the city for kindness and generosity while facing a delivery of heroin charge.

    1. Police

      Hi BHWG,

      I can answer the first part of your question.

      The response I got from police department spokesman Perry Polinski when I asked him whether the police department had any concerns about the proposed business was:

      “The police department welcomes any new business that allows community members to join the work force and make positive contributions.”

      — Bill

  2. Who is the building’s owner?
    Who is the building’s owner? Is he currently leasing it or will he be leasing it?

    1. Owner

      Hi Peter,

      The property is listed in Cook County Recorder of Deeds records as having been acquired by Samir Yonan and Bushra Yonan in 2004.

      After some futher ownership changes, it ended up back in Samir and Bushra’s hands by 2011.

      It was then transferred by them to an entity called Waqas Samir LLC. in 2013.

      Secretary of State records list Waqas Samir LLC as having Wagas Qureshi and Samir Yonan as managers.

      The application for the special use permit lists Crayton as the owner of the property (which conflicts with the Recorder of Deeds records), but also lists Ray W. Qureshi of Wagas Samir LLC as having “constructive control” of the property.

      Wagas Qureshi is also listed in the special use permit application in as a director of Gold Star Enterprises, Corp., the entity Crayton has formed to operate the proposed restaurant. But Crayton is listed as the only shareholder in the corporation.

      — Bill

      1. Fascinating – obscure details
        Fascinating – obscure details of interlocking ownership in a cash business proposed by someone with close connections to the heroin trade.

        I just watched a Netflix series with a plot line not so different from this.

      2. Do you happen to know of
        Do you happen to know of anything regarding the permitting process for the property?

  3. Everyone deserves another chance
    I think it is a good idea that this young man has. We don’t know his circumstances or if what he is accused of is true, but anytime someone is trying to turn their life around (no matter how many times they try) their community should provide them guidance and lift them up instead of tearing them down. I wish Mr. Crayton success and hope he receives the support he needs.

    1. Agree Tiffany. The restaurant
      Agree Tiffany. The restaurant business is very tough and I hope the partnership has some experience and sufficient working capital as they will need both. They will also need strong local support. I wish them nothing but success and look forward to giving them a try.. I cannot,however, approve any City funding in light of his serious transgressions.

    2. Tearing him down?

      Being unwilling to give tax dollars to a guy who sold crack out of school doesn’t qualify as “tearing him down”. Are you satisfied that this venture is above board? If so, why?

    3. Perhaps it would be logical
      Perhaps it would be logical to defer any final voting until the drug hearing is held, and that case is determined. Would be quite embarrassing to the council…

  4. I wish Mr. Crayton well and

    I wish Mr. Crayton well and look forward to visiting this new restaurant. 

    1. There is an obvious answer
      There is an obvious answer lurking just below the surface but perhaps the menu is going to feature ” red beans and rice and fried chicken”.

      1. First, let me proudly
        First, let me proudly introduce myself to you ALL. My name is Ms. Madelyn Ducre’. I DO NOT fear any HUMAN BEING!! But I DO FEAR and believe in a Higher Being !! Got IT??!! Do you believe the Media always give you/us the FACTS. Talk to Mr. A Katz, Mr. R. Crayton, and others . (Face to Face…it’s okay) If you can adjust to FACTS and/or listen= we just might be able to understand each other …a little…?? To some of you let me make this very clear ..I did not play those dirty type of games when I was younger and DANG IT…I am too old to play them now. I have no problem telling you what’s on my mind..if NEED BE!!! Mr. Anonymous Al, It sadden me tremendously to read some of your and others comment in the Evanston Now..The intensity in some of your words are truly repugnant to me and others in the Fifth ward and in Evanston….This BROWN COLOUR.woman will give more remarks later….Because someone just told me to check out Evanston Now January 21, 2018….

        1. Thank you for joining the disucssion
          Ms. Ducre, I would very much like to understand why you came to a public meeting to oppose Mr. Katz opening a restaurant on Simpson St, but did not oppose Mr. Crayton opening a restaurant just a block a way. I assume the other commenters are speculating, and it would great if you set the record straight.

  5. Really?

    This sounds like a money laundering factory to me. Or at least an easier way to sell drugs discreetly. I’m sure this city will find the operation though. 

  6. As an Evanston taxpayer I

    As an Evanston taxpayer I have no problem with him opening the restaurant, but I do have a problem if he wants funding from the city. 

  7. Curt’s Cafe?

    I like to focus on the positive. Another Curt’s Cafe would be great for the community. Let’s just see how everything plays out. I believe in second changes and I know no one on this thread is perfect. If he’s going to add to the community and do something good…who are we to speak negatively on this. He may show, help, and teach others to not go down his same path. A lot of people learn from others that made the same mistakes as them! Let’s not be quick to tear this apart and hurt a potentially great thing. 

    1. True or False
      True that political figures are above the law in being prosecuted for breaking the law in some cases; however false the accusations existing may be a shadow of doubt to the intent of future endeavors. Positive connections will prevail over the outcome. If, indeed he is cleared of any legal blocks, then he may be a candidate for further developmental projects that the city may have in mind. Such as mentoring a community that has great promise in building character rather than the alternative of promoting a stigma of the past. There are clues. The present owner did provide a service that was beneficial, in addition to being a drop off place for UPS packages. There is WORK to do in playing a part of speculation of the outcome.

    2. Raven,
      Feel free to gamble on him with your money. But people need to earn trust before being given public resources.

    3. Robert Crayton

      Lets start by the fact that in 2005 HE plead guilty to selling cocain outside a school, now he has a pending case in court CURRENTLY for MORE drug charges!! And you speak on second chances?!? How many chances would you like him to have? If he was a murderer how many chances would you like him to have? Allow him to kill again after the first time? same as any offender! One has to learn a lesson from every action we take! From 2005 until his actions prove that he’s learned NOTHING from is past actions. If there is NO consequences or repercussions for our actions why would we change? Maybe he’ll make the community worse you ever think of that? I dont think anyone thinks they are perfect but are concerned with the type of things that could potentionally happen when crossing businesses with bussiness owners like this!

  8. The Community

    Let’s judge the carry-out restaurant idea; Let’s not focus on negativity. As I frequent the Darrow and Simpson corner for the school bus or riding to the bike path; my daughter and I pass what looked  like an abandoned building. After what looked like a lot of hard and costly work we visited the facility to see the results; I must say it looks great. My daughter and I are excited for the opening. I don’t understand the ADA-accessibility code; however a restaurant blocks down is equipped to seat more than 10 people.  I believe the restaurant blocks over has one bathroom; what makes the zoning different for that facility? Again, I am looking forward to visiting the neighborhood restaurant to grab breakfast or a sandwich. The restaurant is beautiful, very clean, spacious, warm, and welcoming.  I am not sure if this is about the community or Robert; the community needs opened and operating businesses. It’s a great idea Robert has. He is providing positive leadership and jobs and that something the community needs. Growing up in Evanston I saw all the retail spaces from Dodge/Simpson to Dewey/Simpson, opened for business…not just unoccupied space. 

  9. Things that make ya go, hmmm?
    At a Design and Project Review Committee last August, several community activists, including former 5th Ward Alderman Delores Holmes, spoke out against a proposed zoning change and restaurant at 1829 Simpson. Arkady Kats, who with his wife Rita owned the Bread ‘n’ Bowl Company restaurant in Niles last decade, said he plans to offer soups and shish kabobs and salads at the restaurant, which would offer year-round seating for about 25 patrons, carry-out service, and a patio area in the rear for additional summertime seating.

    Former Evanston City Clerk Rodney Greene said, “We really don’t need a restaurant. This piece of property could be used for affordable housing.”

    Madelyn Ducre said, “I don’t want to see that zoning changed for that kind of restaurant. Now, if it was red beans and rice and fried chicken, I might think about it.” Keep in mind, Clayton is not proposing red beans and rice and fried chicken on his menu, either. Where’s the outrage from Ducre?

    Another reason these community activists opposed Kats’ restaurant was that it would attract rodents and other small animals such as skunks and it would eventually lead to the sale of alcohol.

    So where are these same community activists for this proposed restaurant (although no zoning change here) just one block east? Where’s the outrage that Clayton’s proposed restaurant would be operated by someone who was busted selling crack cocaine at Lincolnwood Elementary and arrested and charged with delivering heroin LAST APRIL and those charges are pending in court!!! Crickets! Why?

    The Design and Project Review Committee approved Kats zoning change and proposed restaurant at a later meeting. In September, both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Plan Commission voted to oppose the zoning change and restaurant. Ducre said at that meeting: “We don’t want things coming into our neighborhood…The Muslim building was part of the community, and we lost it because of miscommunication on the part of the City,” she said. “I like diversity, but I like fair diversity. All I ask is for fairness.”

    Fairness? Ducre strongly opposed a zoning change and proposed restaurant from an experienced restaurateur but remains silent against another proposed restaurant (that does not require a zoning change) one block east on the same street that would operated by a convicted drug dealer with no restaurant experience. Why aren’t these community activists attending these meetings and demanding affordable housing or something else besides a restaurant at 1723 Simpson since they have clearly indicated they do not want a restaurant on Simpson Street because among other things it would attract rodents and lead to the sale of alcohol?

    Aside from business experience, being a member of the community or not and a zoning change only for the 1829 Simpson building, why was there strong community opposition for Kats’ restaurant but no strong opposition for Clayton’s? What message does that send business owners who might want to set up shop in Evanston? Things that make ya go, hmmmm…

    1. Black-Owned Businesses
      Let me start off by saying that I’m not black – I’m white, and I live in Northeast Evanston. I don’t mean to speak for anybody, but here’s my take after thinking this over:

      Let’s engage the issue “Al” is dancing around. There has been more support for this project from Fifth Ward neighbors than the previous project because it’s a black-owned business – and that’s 100% okay. For generations, the Fifth Ward has been a tightly-knit, majority black community within a community, and one of the pieces of the complex Evanston puzzle that makes this city so strong and so unique. In recent decades, the number of black-owned businesses in the Fifth Ward has plummeted – we’ve lost icons of the community that served the Fifth Ward and acted as anchors of the community for many, many years. Like businesses all over the city, especially businesses that serve food and naturally invite community interactions (coffee shops, diners, etc.), these closed businesses once served as “third places,” bringing neighbors together and strengthening neighborhood relationships. When businesses like this close, a community can easily lose its sense of place.

      But today, we have a black entrepreneur who wants to open a black-owned cafe to serve his community, to create another “third place” in a neighborhood that has been disproportionately affected by the above-mentioned closings. And the community is excited about this! Just check out any of the major Evanston Facebook groups – comments from neighbors are overwhelmingly positive. The Fifth Ward deserves these kinds of places too, and the entrepreneur starting this particular business, with a nod to the past and a vision for the future, has paid his debt to society and is now trying to do some good.

      Rather than tearing him down, we should be applauding him. A strong and vibrant Fifth Ward is good for Evanston as a whole, and I wish Mr. Clayton the best of luck. I’ll be by for an egg sandwich and a coffee as soon as this place is up and running.

      1. Racism goes both ways
        Let’s engage the issue Evan Stonian is dancing around.

        Clayton is black. Kats is white. They both want to open restaurants on Simpson within a block of each other. “Community activists” went to public meetings to denounce and oppose Kats’ proposed restaurant. They have not opposed Clayton’s. Kats has experience in the restaurant business. Clayton does not and was convicted of selling crack cocaine at Lincolnwood Elementary and has a pending charge of SELLING heroin.

        So why the extreme opposition of Kats but not Clayton, a known drug dealer wit ha pending drug charge? Is it racism? How can anyone “applaud” someone to open a restaurant with a PENDING DRUG CHARGE and a conviction of selling crack cocaine at an elementary school with children nearby? Do Fifth Ward residents not have a problem with someone like Clayton?

        I abhor racism and it works both ways. I hope the good folks in the Fifth Ward – the silent majority – organize and support Kats’ restaurant. I know Fifth Ward Alderman Robin Rue Simmons supports Kats’ proposal. I saddens me that D202 School Board member Monique Parsons supports Clayton’s proposal. He has NOT paid his debt to society. Is Evanston morphing into bizarro world?

        Imagine the outrage if the roles were reversed and Northwest Evanston “community activists” publicly opposed a black business owner but supported a white person with a criminal record similar to Clayton’s only because it wants white owned businesses in its “community.”

        I don’t know if the City Council granted Kats a zoning change and permission to open his restaurant but if not and the ZBA and City Council grant Clayton permission to open his restaurant then Kats has cause to file a racial discrimination suit. And I hope he does.

        It can be argued based on these turn of events that there is racism in Evanston.

      2. To take your position further
        To take your position further, you must advocate for the ‘tightly knit’ Kennilworth community? The ‘tightly knit’ Bridgeport neighborhood? The ‘tightly knit’ Highland Park community?

        This is a horribly racist position — advocating the notion of non-inclusiveness in a community. Replace ‘Kennilworth’, ‘Bridgeport’ or ‘Highland Park’ for ‘Fifth Ward’, and replace WASP, white catholic, or Jewish white male with ‘black-owned’ or ‘black entrepreneur’, and see how your comment reads. Shameful to advocate for such racist, exclusionary practices.

        Al was not dancing around the issue — it appears he struck the correct cord, whether people want to hear it or not. The alderperson is correct — anyone is able to apply for a grant; the logical follow-up to that is that the city should not be providing any taxpayer funds to a convicted crack dealer, with a potential second offense looming.

      3. 80 grams of heroine has a
        80 grams of heroine has a street value of between $8-16,000 and this arrest was just a few months ago….I think we could find many black people who could run a business that don’t have that charge hanging over their heads.

  10. Good luck

    Why is it we all looking for the bad in a person, why can’t we all support this man and his dreams. Yes we all have fallen short made bad mistakes but isn’t it your past that makes your future better? I would be still out there selling drugs if it wasn’t for a officer who gave me job lead.we read and talk to each other about why black men can’t do better this is why white ,black or whatever we want to see bad in a person, not once in none that I read has one person said that’s his past and his future starts today. I hope the city helps him out and moves forward to open soon.God will bless you

    1. Did you even read the article
      Did you even read the article? The person in question has been yet again charged with a crime. Case pending. That said, I guess I’m not sure of your definition of “in the past”.

      1. Guessing you skipped this part….

        “Crayton, who will be leasing the building from its current owner, was arrested last April on charges of delivering heroin. A court hearing on those charges is scheduled for next Thursday.

        In 2005 he pleaded guilty to charges of selling crack cocaine outside Lincolnwood Elemetary School, where he was working as a school custodian.”

    2. You must mean good luck in court
      Felony, luvin the name.

      You write:” …we read and talk to each other about why black men can’t do better.”

      Don’t believe what you hear or read from poverty pimps peddling the woe is me because of my race crap. This is America. Millions of poor brown people who can’t speak English and with nothing on their backs risk their lives to sneak into America just to work for a better life. Opportunity in America is there if you want to make an honest living. Selling drugs is all about getting more people hooked to build a customer base. I don’t care what race you are, there is no excuse whatsoever and nothing more vile than selling crack cocaine at an elementary school.

      Our government should not help out someone with a drug dealing past and a pending drug charge. It’s not hard to understand. Clayton’s future starts at his next court date to answer those drug charges. Period.

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