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Once upon a time it was ‘Exactly what we need’

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"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.

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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.

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