Curt’s Cafe, a financially struggling program designed to train youthful ex-offenders for food service careers, will ask Evanston aldermen for over $30,000 in funding tonight.
The cafe, at 2922 Central St., was opened in April by Susan Trieschmann, who owns the building, but has yet to receive approval of its request for non-profit 501(c)3 status from the Internal Revenue Service.
In October, Treishmann, who for 25 years was a partner in a Lincolnwood catering business, requested $50,000 in aid from the city, saying the cafe had over $30,000 in unpaid bills and needed more than $16,000 to build out its kitchen to be able to prepare food on site.
Most of the unpaid bills were for rent owed Trieschmann, who says she’s cut the rent on the space so it only covers her taxes on the property.
County records show the building, which also includes another storefront, has more than $17,000 in unpaid property taxes.
While members of the city’s Economic Development Committee recommended that the city provide support, members also expressed concerns about the shaky financial status of the operation and the decision to open before getting non-profit status, which has hampered fundraising efforts.
The funding proposal developed by city staff calls for loaning the program $9,095 to help fund the kitchen buildout and authorizing $21,332 in grants to provide training to at least four Evanston residents who are unemployed young adult ex-offenders.
The grant would expand on an existing career pathways program operated by the Youth Job Center of Evanston.
Trieschmann says she developed her interest in opening the cafe through her activities with restorative justice programs in Evanston, where young offenders frequently said they could stay out of trouble if they had a job, but their lack of career skills made it difficult for them to find one.
She says that in just over six months Curt’s Cafe has “trained three students who have gone on to get jobs with Starbucks, Eco Cleaners and Food for Thought Catering.”
In addition, she says, one student was able to enroll in Oakton Community College.
But she says that without an emergency infusion of capital, the cafe is likely to have to close by the end of the year.
Top: At work at Curt’s Cafe.