Restaurant owner Mitch Einhorn says he hopes to buy the former north branch library building from the City of Evanston and expand his Lush Wine & Spirits into the space.
Einhorn now has a 25-year lease with the city for the half of the city-owned Central Street property that wasn’t occupied by the library.
At Thursday night’s 7th Ward meeting the city’s economic development manager, Paul Zalmezak, said the city is now seeking an appraisal on the property. After that’s received, he said, the City Council will meet in executive session to set an asking price for the building.
Once that’s done, Zalmezak says, the city can begin to negotiate with Einhorn or other possible buyers. He said it could take until mid year to actually approve the sale. The sale of city assets requires a two-thirds majority vote by the City Council.
Einhorn said he’s “pivoted many times” over the year since the COVID-19 pandemic began to keep the business open and respond to changing customer needs.
He said he’s added a French Market concept, selling baked goods and fresh vegetables as well as prepared meals that customers could pick up to go when pandemic restrictions barred indoor restaurant dining.
“We’ve found over the year that Evanston people all seem to really enjoy what we’re doing,” Einhorn said. Now, he added, “We could use more restaurant space to expand on-premises dining” and expand the menu.
He said he also wants to add a carryout window at the front of the building for quicker pickup and takeaways, something he says he’s “seen done in Paris quite a few times.”
One resident at the virtual meeting, Rosalie Ziomek, said she’s found the loss of the library very painful and was hoping for a bookstore or something like that to occupy the space.
“Central Street is just becoming all eating places,” Ziomek said. “Hearing that the building is to be sold is very sad, it’s a really big loss.”
Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said, “We’re all sorry to see the library branch close,” but added that a new bookstore, Page One Books, has opened recently at 1808 Central St.
And Simone Oettinger, who owns a children’s clothing store on Central Street, called the prospect of the Lush Wine expansion “great news.”
Revelle said the Library Board, which decided to close the branch, doesn’t appear to be interested in opening a new location on Central Street, but that if they did, they could look to rent space on the street. And, “if Mitch purchases the building, that will put it back on the tax rolls,” Revelle added.