Members of Evanston’s Economic Development Committee voted 5-1 Wednesday night in favor of a plan to rebate $50,000 in sales and liquor tax revenue to the Kabul House restaurant under construction at 2424 Dempster St.
Committee member Hecky Powell, whose Hecky’s Barbecue received an $11,500 facade improvement grant from the city five years ago, cast the only vote against the plan.
Kabul House owner Akmal Qazi has paid $540,000 to purchase the failed Chicken & Waffles restaurant site and is reportedly spending an additional $700,000 on renovations and new equipment.
After some of the project costs came in higher than initially estimated, he asked the EDC last month for assistance in the form of a facade improvement grant, but was turned down because the previous owners had received money from the same program.
Asked by the committee to explore other ways the city might provide help, Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons Wednesday recommended the tax rebate idea.
Lyons said the assistance could be structured to condition the rebate on Kabul House achieving goals for hiring local residents.
But Powell said he doubted those promises would be kept.
“I’ve been around the city a long time. That’s always what people say — jobs, jobs, jobs — but they don’t happen,” he argued.
He also suggested the restaurant owner should have done a better job of planning the project so he wouldn’t have needed to seek extra funds.
The committee, without any dissent, approved loans to four other businesses.
Lenice and Tony Levy, owners of the Good To Go Jamaican restaurant, were approved for $50,000 forgivable loan to help pay buildout costs for their newly-purchased location at 709-711 Howard St. and a 10-year, $25,000 Community Development Block Grant loan to pay for equipment.
Marianne and Richard Schwall of Lake City Cleaners were backed for a forgivable loan of up to $10,648 to cover half the cost of a backflow prevention device and water pressure booster pump in their building at 600 Oakton St.
Ramakant Kharel, received backing for a forgivable loan of $10,700 for facade improvements at his planned Red Hot Chili Pepper restaurant at 500 Davis St.
And the owners of the Gross Point Plaza shopping center at 2504-2510 Gross Point Road were supported in their request for $16,500 to make facade improvements.
All the plans still require City Council approval.
The city’s Storefront Modernization Program, which is the funding source for all the proposals other than Kabul House, has an annual budget of $350,000 — out of a total city budget of $247 million.