Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. is seeking to bail out of its lease that would have turned Evanston’s shuttered recycling center into a beer production facility and tap room.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says, in a memo to aldermen ahead of Monday’s City Council meeting, that Michael Smylie asked to withdraw from the agreement on April 10.

Just over two weeks later Smylie Brothers announced on social media that they’d opened a different new brewing facility in the former Aquanaut Brewing Company site at 5435 N. Wolcott Ave. in Chicago.

Smylie’s new plant in Chicago, in an image posted to Smylie’s Facebook page.

In his letter to the city, Smylie said he was “unable to raise sufficient funding” to complete the recycling center project.

Bobkiewicz says Smylie told city officials he had planned to have both the Aquanaut and recycling center facilities running side-by-side, but that a financial partner for the Oakton project backed out of the deal, and he was unable to line up new financing.

Bobkiewicz says city staff believes the city could hold Smylie to the terms of the lease, which call for payments of $163,750 per year for the next eight and a half years. Under the lease, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2017, Smylie Brothers doesn’t have to start paying rent until July this year.

But in his memo Bobkiewicz recommends terminating the agreement anyway because Smylie “has no intention of completing the project” and it’s theerfore in the best interest of the city to identify another productive use for the property.

He says staff has received inquiries from other potential users interested in turning the “highly desirable” property into a recreation facility or restaurant/event space.

He says the options for aldermen to consider include:

  • launching a new request for proposals process to lease or sell the property,
  • directly list the property for sale with future use to be determined by zoning regulations,
  • reuse the building for city storage, or
  • demolish it.

The Smylie Brothers deal was the result of a request for proposals process that was launched in May 2015. It took until December 2016 before the City Council authorized approval of the Smylie Brothers lease.

A July 2015 appraisal estimated the value of the property at $845,000.

Related stories

Aldermen OK recycling center lease for brewery (12/13/16)

Slow going for brewery deal with city (7/20/16)

Aldermen back brewery concept at recycling center (7/14/15)

City seeks new use for recycling center (4/6/15)

‘Over my dead body,’ alderman says of sale (3/17/15)

Sports lease talks for Evanston recycling center drag on (7/9/12)

Play ball inside recycling center? (1/21/11)

Carts bring end to recycling center (7/14/10)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. If the City considers
    If the City considers releasing the lessee from the lease, there needs to be a substantial penalty paid for the relief. One year’s rent due at release should be the minimum consideration.

    1. It’s hardly in the city’s
      It’s hardly in the city’s best interests to levy a massive, punitive fine on an Evanston business, especially since no fiscal harm will be done by releasing them from the lease. Instead of having a vacant but “highly desirable” property, another business can move in and provide not only leasing income but tax revenue.

  2. Convert to Affordable Housing
    City should ask for 6 month rental donation to the affordable housing fund and end cancel lese. They should also find a non profit to convert building to affordable housing.

    1. Southwest Evanston, home to
      Southwest Evanston, home to vacant recycling centers, mystery metals in water supply, a park that use to be the city dump and a sewage treatment plant next door in Skokie, good times! Remind me, why do i live here?

        1. I was never a fan of Smylie’s
          I was never a fan of Smylie’s beer, but often frequented their restaurant as the food was pretty decent and was very family friendly. Now, this news leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think our family’s going out money will be better spent somewhere else.

      1. Evanston’s Hazardous Waste Hotspot
        …please don’t forget all the polluters. Orange Crush, Ozinga, Northshore Towing and numerous other “businesses” that exist up/down Hartrey and Pitner just north of Oakton Street. Illegally burning tires and pallets and polluting our air from the small businesses…. Ozinga and Orange Crush? HUGE air polluters. Ozinga has a track-record with our EPA. If you want to pollute, move to SW Evanston because no one pays attention except for the people with the ongoing headaches and sinus issues who live nearby.

    2. No they should demo it and

      No they should demo it and sell the land to a contractor and let them build luxury condos or townhouses and not add any affordable housing which just waste other people’s money 

  3. Smylie Brothers Brewing
    SBB has had a non-paying lease for almost 17 months. Now they want to get out of lease without paying a dime because they probably found a better deal in the Chicago location. 17 months have passed and the recycling center has had no productive use. I do not believe the excuses they have provided.

    They should pay a penalty for breaking the lease and ending it early. Wally does not agree but remember he is the guy that greased a deal to let the city build a patio for the PIG on Howard. Ask other city managers in the area if they would let this pass without a financial penalty. The answer would be NO.

    I think that a ,more than fair, deal for Smylie, would be $10,000 per month for one year but would settle for $50,000 up front with $5,000 per month for the next 10 months for a total of $100,000 in penalty.

    1. Living up to your obligations…
      This is breech of contract… I feel strongly that the City should enforce their contract with Smylie Brothers… At the very least, Smylie should pay the back-rent on leaving fallow and vluable Evanston Real Estate dangling while they were busy building their “tandem” project… And they should pay until a new tenant can be found. That’s the Law and methinks that’s what’s right.

      Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

      1. Wasn’t there like, literally
        Wasn’t there like, literally no feasible alternative proposal for the location that had any financial backers at all? I think #2 proposal was an ice rink or a roller rink or some such nonsense that had no one willing to pay for redeveloping the building. I agree with the previous poster, I’m not sure fining an Evanston business that provides a ton of tax income for wanting out of the lease on a property that literally no one else with credibility had or has any use for. That recycling center would take $millions to turn into a business, its no wonder it is not hot property. Plus did the pollution stuff ever get resolved?

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