“This is exactly what we need,” then Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said as the city’s Economic Development Committee in April 2012 recommendad approval of a $200,000 city loan for a new restaurant in a former auto parts store on Evanston’s west side.

It doesn’t look that way now, as the city tries to recoup about 28 cents on the dollar for its investment in the shuttered restaurant at 2424 Dempster St.

First Bank & Trust, which made a $202.500 first mortgage loan, will recoup its funds, another mortgage holder has already been paid off, and the deal will see long-overdue county property taxes paid off. But the city will largely be left holding the bag.


At Monday night’s Administration and Public Works Committee and City Council meetings aldermen struggled to find a way to get more of the city’s money back — but concluded that waiting would likely see the remaining funds consumed by the growing property tax bill.

Therefore, they decided, the city’s best option was to take what it can get and see the building sold to a new owner who hopefully will have better luck running a restaurant there and generating sales and liquor tax revenue for the city.

Deal timeline

October 2011A sign appeared in the window of the storefront announcing plans for the restaurant.

April 2012 — The city’s Economic Development Committee is asked by city staff to recommend that the full City Council approve the deal, and does so.

Darnell Johnson and Rosemary Malone explaining the restaurant plans at the EDC meeting.

May 2012 — The City Council approves the plans, with only Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, voting no.

January 2013 — After extensive renovations to the buiding, the restaurant opens.

July 2014 — The Economic Development Committee is told that of seven loans the city has made to local businesses, the Chicken & Waffles deal is the only one in arrears.

January 2015 — The city threatens to revoke the restaurant’s liquor license because of unpaid property taxes, liquor taxes and the increasing amount that hasn’t been paid on the loan. But, after a hearing, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, agrees to let them keep the license after being told by restaurant manager Darnell Johnson that the business has been struggling and that he and owner Tonya Van Dyke have had to subsidize it with income from their two other restaurants to keep it open.

April 2015 — The restaurant closes, but a city staffer says the owners have promised to make loan payments to the city while they try to find a buyer for the building..

April 2016 — A proposed deal to sell the restaurant to a new owner leaves the city out more than $150,000.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Where is Jane Grover Today?
    Loaning money to businesses is “exactly what we DON’T need.”

    The City of Evanston is not a bank, and should not be involved with lending money.
    There are many, many banks and financial institutions that have expertise in this area.

    City government serves an important role and a well functioning government is critical
    to the future of Evanston. Please stay within your area of competence and let other organizations
    do the lending. Taxpayers have enough issues to fund, and we don’t need to add bad loans to the list.

    The next thing you know the City of Evanston will be asked to fund a loan to restart Dave’s Italian Kitchen.


    1. Due Diligence

      In business—at least profitable ones and ones that last long—you do a Cost Benefit Analysis [CBA] and beside the obvious cost and benefit, you calculate the return on investment—i.e. what percent return you get just as you would do with a stock/bond investment—and determine if that return is better than other projects [also CBA'd].  You don't just say "well it will return $1 million per year.  That is meaningless unless you know the cost and revenue—$1 million return is good for a $2 million investment but terrible for a $100 million investment.  CBAs are revised at various points as cost/benefits anticipated change and become sharper.

      You also do 'Due Diligence.'  You examine the 'books', you talk to management and if a going concern employees, you observe operations to see if what they say they do is what they do—e.g. software is not a 'proto-type' for 'display but no working "guts" and it can be scaled up.

      Has the Council ever done this ? Had an expert do so or have the company produce this analysis and talk to the analysts ?  Has this analysis been made available to the public ?

      The Council has to be accountable to the taxpayers, not just made decisions because "it feels good."

    2. restaurants
      Hahahaha…they are already planning that one. I would also like to say…just my opinion…..that the greasy looking fried chicken, 2 containers of syrup, and the big waffles with a wad of butter on them, is about the most unappetizing thing I’ve seen in a long time. UGH…..gross, & unhealthy!

  2. How are the other loans doing?
    From reading the City Manager’s weekly report, it looks like Davis Transportation was “loaned” 140k more than a year ago and has only paid back about $900.

    It is pretty remarkable that these companies are getting such generous payouts.

  3. Yet again- Where are the owners?
    Busy running TWO profitable similar places, and laughing their way to the bank. Where’s the city attorney trying to recoup more than 28 cents on the dollar from the other businesses? Where’s the Council members who pushed this through and allowed ANOTHER defaulted loan for ANOTHER failed venture?

    And now Dave’s Italian Kitchen wants 30 grand from the city (plus more from the landlord for building upgrades) to buy equipment for his new smaller space in an already historically poor location for food service?

    If it’s that important to the city council, then let them pony up and risk their own cash first. That’s only 3000 for each of the aldercreeps, mayor, and Wally to come up with. Skim it right off the top of their city paychecks.

    Then with hold salary from every one of them that voted to lose the Chicken & Waffle loan until it’s completely prepaid.

    As an aside- the food there wasn’t as bad as it looks, but the service was terrible.

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