Just days after plans for a new lakefront restaurant in Chicago were announced, aldermen in Evanston Monday night vowed there’ll never be a full-service restaurant on our lakefront.

The new Shore Club restaurant and bar venue is scheduled to open Aug. 1 on Chicago Park District land off Chicago’s North Avenue beach, and owner Lisa Jaroscak tells Eater she hopes to attract “people who appreciate good food and aren’t really coming to the lakefront right now.”

The new club is one of more than a dozen dining venues along the Chicago shoreline.

But at Monday’s Evanston City Council meeting, lakefront aldermen ruled out anything more than what they described as a “light fare” cafe as part of the city’s request for proposals seeking a not-for-profit group to lease the Harley Clarke mansion.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she’s “very concerned about the idea of having restaurants on the lakefront.”

“Even in Harley Clarke,” she said, “it would create a precedent for the lakefront that would be a big mistake.”

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she was opposed to having a full-service restaurant on the lakefront but said the lakefront master plan did contemplate the idea of a “light fare” cafe. She said she’d be OK with that — but only at the Harley Clarke site, which as it happens, is not in her ward.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, whose 7th Ward does include the mansion, also noted that the lakefront plan was open to a cafe concept there.

Revelle, concerned about how a non-profit leasee of the property would cover its costs, said she had spoken with one restaurateur who said a “light fare” venue “wouldn’t be a huge moneymaker, but could be profitable.”

Aldermen whose wards don’t include the lakefront were silent on the cafe issue as the council massaged language for the mansion RFP.

After making a variety of changes, including tightening up the schedule for submitting plans, the aldermen opted to take a final look at the revised draft at their next meeting July 24.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why not?
    I think it would be nice having lunch or dinner with a nice lake view. Beer, wine and easily prepared foods would be a great addition, and generate sales tax revenue too. There’s a great example at Granville and the lake in Chicago:

    1. Of course there’s nothing
      Of course there’s nothing wrong with lakefront restaurants. These same aldermen are constantly looking for ways to tax us. Ah, now we got their attention! Just add special lakefront “fees” for diners there! The city would get thousands in additional revenue, the underutilized lakefront…especially when it isn’t ideal beach weather…would be used and useful…providing $ for the city. And the rest of us wouldn’t have to pony up more tax dollars. If the aldermen need additional incentive put the new fee in the underfunded police/fire pension funds.

      1. Northwestern?

        Another idea I’d like to throw out there.  Did you guys know Northwestern owns 10 acres of submerged property along their lakefront?  I say we give them the old city hall, its super close to their campus anyway, and in exchange come to an equitable arrangement for a new city hall on the Harley Clarke site.  Mindful of the fact that any future development off of that submerged property will impact all Evanston beachfront property.  It would be a collaboration/olive branch opportunity.  Connecting evanston to northwestern which has been tense over the years.  Thoughts?

        p.s. Be aware that any future development of the submerged property east of northwestern present campus will through natural erosion increase the size of lighthouse beach.  Great mutal connection!

    2. Right, why not? Travel to any

      Right, why not? Travel to any European city that has a river or a lake and you will see a ton of Cafes or Restaurants.

    3. Raising revenue from
      Raising revenue from lakefront land and simultaneously making it useable in off season or inclement weather should be part of the master plan. Additional fees could be assessed diners and reduce the need for additional TAXES. It would also bring people to Evanston who might shop in Evanston stores making this a destination for surrounding suburbanites. Imagine festive holiday restaurants bringing tax dollars. And, again, a lakefront utilized year round. How is this NOT part of a master plan?

    4. city hall or small restaurant

      Ron we are on the same page.  My vote is to make it the new city hall or small restaurant!  Our current city hall is so unappealing, dread going there.  A beautiful charming property on the lakefront?  That represents Evanston!  Would be so fitting.  Could also be used for city hall weddings, events, etc.  Or a small intimate restaurant cafe similiar to Lakefront Cafe.  It CAN be done!  Get with the times aldermen.

    5. Beach Restaurant and harbor

      A restaurant on the lake is a great idea for many reasons; especially if a few tweaks are added such as a place for boats to dock. I am not aware of any boat accessible destinations near Chicago. Traffic (by boaters) would be great for business and not increase congestion on the streets. Throw in a harbor and now we have new cottage business opportunities such as sail lofts, etc. Outsource the entire harbor operation so the city doesn’t have the opportunity to screw it up. Follow Chicagos lead. 

    6. “big mistake” ???

      Has any alderman actually defined what their idea of a big mistake would be, with having lakefront dining?  No parking meter revenue?  A possible hangout late at night for drinking and drugs, etc? (as if the beaches aren’t already used for that)…just curious…..

      People will be headed to all the lovely Chicago locations, as usual.   

  2. Yes to Lakefront Dining

    I definitely would enjoy lakefront dining in Evanston. Wisconsin and Michigan are filled with supper clubs with beautiful views, not to mention Florida and California’s Pacific Coast. More Evanstonians would be able to enjoy the lakefront in such a venue than the city council members realize.

  3. No year round lake front restaurant for you!!!!
    This goes to show you how closed minded our elected city officials are.

    No year round lake front restaurant for you!!!!

    Nope. We’ll just create new government positions like an equity overlord for $110,000, raise your taxes and give away millions of your tax money to Trader Joes (which took down Whole Foods on Chicago) and an affordable housing building on Howard, ad nauseum. But even to consider any kind of plan or proposal for a restaurant in the mansion on the lake is not even worth looking at or even thinking about. Don’t even consider how a restaurant could bring more tourism dollars to the Lighthouse next door.

    This is just another example of how our elected officials are out of touch and anti-business, raising the minimum wage from $8.25 to $10 per hour.

    We need a new City Council with a new direction of smart folks who are pro-business.

    Vote da bums out!!

    1. Restaurant on the lake front

      I am not clear why their is an objection to providing this amenity to people who are enjoying the park? Has a cost benefit analysis actually been completed? Let’s do that first!!

      1. The Council and restaurant

        Didn’t the Council propose looking into a restaurant and even theater on the Lake at Clark Street Beach a few years [5-10 years] go ?

        It could be powered by the windmills in the Lake the Council proposed.

        Oh yeah, those were proposals to put on their resume and to get upper class and Greenpeace voters respectively—then hope everyone else forgot.

    2. Good Point, Al!

      “Vote da bums out!!”  

      Definitely, Al! Make sure you set a reminder for April 4, 2017 and get it done!


      1. Do you support a restaurant in the mansion?

        So Mr. Suffredin, as the Evanston 6th Ward alderman, do you support a restaurant in the mansion?

        1. I’m not sure, Al. Why don’t

          I’m not sure, Al. Why don’t you come to a city council meeting and introduce yourself. You could make  your case for why you think it’s a good idea. We have one July 24. Bill is protective of your ability to post anonymously. That’s fair. His shop, his rules. My rule is that if you want a question answered, come introduce yourself and ask me directly. 

          1. Son, you have to treat your

            Son, you have to treat your constituents with a little more kindness. The last name I gave you will only take you so far.

          2. Thanks for the tip, fake

            Thanks for the tip, fake Evanston Now dad, but I seem to be doing just fine.

          3. Tom, are you for lakefront restaurants?

            Hi Tom,

            I’m no supporter of Anonymous Al, who won’t use his/her actual name.  But I do agree with him/her on this issue.  Seems like a no-brainer where we can have a tasteful restaurant or two on the lakefront that will actually provide revenue to the city.  I’m sure a lot of Evanstonians would support this effort.

            If you are opposed to it, I would appreciate knowing your reasons.



          4. Chae,


            It’s like anything else, if there was a proposal I would look at it and make a decision. I don’t have a strong opinion one way or the other on it. My colleagues who represent lakefront wards do. 

          5. Nice deflection, son.

            Nice deflection, son.  Hopefully, the readers won’t understand that RFP stands for request for PROPOSAL.  By going along with the sentiment to restrict the RFP to not include restaurants, you’ll be able to stay neutral on this.  I taught you well.  For your next lesson, I’ll show you how to be publicly opposed to taxes while privately working to raise them.

          6. Suffredin just straddling da fence

            You sat up there on the Council “massaging language for the mansion RFP” while some of your colleagues VOWED no restaurant, though maybe a light fare cafe. And you don’t have an opinion either way on this hot topic?

            Are you always going to sit in silence straddling the fence during your term as Sixth Ward alderman?  Typical politician. No verve. No vision. No passion. No strong opinions. 

            Sounds like you’re in the same league as the Daleys, Lipinskis, Madigans, the Jacksons, the Strogers, the Mells, the Hynes, et al families who seem to treat Cook County politics as simply a matter of royalty.

            I miss Tendam already.

    3. !!!!

      Serial punctuation is always a sure sign of writing by a person who’s fraught with insecurity.

  4. aldermen get with the times

    I agree with all the comments above.  As a longtime resident this issue infuriates me because I think we have been missing out on so many amazing opportunities thanks to these old whiny aldermen.  If the city of evanston wasn’t so uptight I think we would be known for having one of the most beautiful beach communities in the U.S. and bring in amazing business, tourism, etc.  Surf shop, swim shop, venue/reception available for a beautiful wedding overlook the beach, come on.

    On a related note, I’m not a big fan of our city hall.  It has never looked very appealing and is expensive to maintain.  Why not have the Harley Clarke mansion be our new city hall?? It represents Evanston so much better.  Something to be proud of.   

    1. Remember, one and all:  We

      Remember, one and all:  We would, no doubt, already have a nice lake front restaurant if the City Council had voted in favor of the Pritzer proposal for the Harley Clarke mansion a few years ago.  However, the so-called “preservationists” won’t allow progress on some fronts.

      1. preserving what?

        I get the feeling that they are preserving their own personal likes and agendas…not open to the masses.   Right now, I am picturing dining at the mansion…..enjoying the lakefront breezes, and walking about outside afterwards..perhaps sitting at benches with friends, and feeling like I’m in not in a somewhat busy city.   I hope the city officials and the “preservationists” are enjoying seeing a huge prospect go to waste…when the Pritzkers could have enhanced dining like never before.

    2. I would love a full service
      I would love a full service restaurant as you said but I just know between the lakefront aldermen and ecofriendly people it would be impossible. Just going to the meetings about the new smylie brothers (restaurant/brewery) opening at james park its the same roundabout, similar situation. Everyone is complaining about the community garden being moved slightly and could care less about the hundreds of thousands of dollars smylie brothers is investing and all the revenue they’ll be generating for the city.

    1. Restaurant Would Be Great For All Seasons

      Completely agree – why shouldn’t we have a full-service restaurant on the lake? Would be great to have a place to have a drink or a meal on the patio after an evening at Lighthouse Beach, or to come have a cozy meal in November while watching the storms out on the lake. Would also be a destination for a midwinter meal, enjoying the beauty of the ice on the lake during those long, cold months. This would be popular not just with Evanstonians, but with the whole North Shore – bringing sales/liquor tax money and supporting Evanston jobs. 

      The lakefront is virtually unused for 8 months out of the year…the objection to this concept makes no logical sense to me. 

    2. Not clear as to ‘why not’

      I couldn’t gather from the article why the aldermen oppose a lakeside restaurant.  I’m just guessing that the record doesn’t include that information? Why not take a look at RFPs from prospective restaurateurs and see what’s proposed?

    3. Harley Clarke

      For some while now I have pictured myself with a few good friends sitting on the veranda of an upscale restaurant tucked into the beachside of the Harley Clarke mansion……perhaps with a gin and tonic or California red in hand….and perhaps with a view of passing wind surfers and day sailers… Ipanema anyone?       Stu Opdycke…1327 Hinman

  5. What’s the negative precedent
    What’s the negative precedent? Deliciousness? Fun?

    Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she’s “very concerned about the idea of having restaurants on the lakefront.”

    “Even in Harley Clarke,” she said, “it would create a precedent for the lakefront that would be a big mistake.”

    1. I assume the perceived

      I assume the perceived negative precedent from those opposed to a restaurant on the lakefront is a “privatization” and “profiting” from public areas. A restaurant serving $35+ entrees and $12 cocktails (like the example noted in the article) is not as “inclusionary” as Evanston alderman and government officials would want a high profile location near the lake (even if the restaurant is technically open to the public). Obviously, such a place would serve a certain demographic of the Evanston populace and it wouldn’t “deliver deliciousness and fun” equitably across groups.

      Now, you would rightly argue that restaurants and private businesses should cater to any customer base they wish to drive profits, but the “negative precedent” is that it would turn into a space being driven by profits/business instead of delivering a nice space to the masses. I’m not trying to be coy with this argument either — there is some logic in saying there should be widespread accessibility to these areas. It’s the same argument against the Bed and Breakfast conversions of these historic mansions, that would make the locations “not available to the masses.”

      Having said all that, I personally think such a restaurant (as well as a B&B) on the lake would be a magnificent addition and provide additional tax revenue, but I can at least appreciate the counter stance. I think some may be too afraid to state the rationale behind it, but that is my take at least.

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