Three downtown Evanston restaurants closed abruptly this week.

Closing sign at La Petite Amelia.

Signs posted Wednesday on the doors at Omaggio, Uber Burger and La Petite Amelia said the restaurants were closing “for summer vacation” and would re-open on Sept. 1.

But the shutdown reportedly took employees by surprise and left an estimated 50 people out of a job.

The restaurants are all owned by Robert LaPata and are located in the Carlson Building at Church Street and Orrington Avenue. Building owner Cameel Halim of Wilmette Real Estate Co. is reportedly a major investor in the three dining spots.

A knowledgeable source in the Evanston business community said it’s believed a financial disagreement between Halim and LaPata may have led to the closures.

Calls this morning to Halim and LaPata were not immediately returned.

Summer can be a slow time for downtown restaurants, since few students are on the nearby Northwestern University campus.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Restaurants aren’t a seasonal business
    Sure, business isn’t hopping quite like it might be during the Spring and Fall, but these restaurants aren’t the kinds of places that should be shutting down for weeks at a time. Besides, La Petite Amelia and Omaggio aren’t exactly targeted at NU students.

    Something smells fishy here. With the exception of Uber Burger, these are upscale restaurants who’s staff don’t typically operate on a seasonal schedule. I hope they can resolve whatever differences they have and get things going again. I like all three and would be sad if they weren’t around any longer.

  2. Unter Handed way to treat employees
    Isn’t Omaggio in the Library Plaza building? Is that owned by Wilmette Realty? I didn’t see anything at the County Assessor site. Is it considered the same property as the Carlson?

    I have often been to Uber Burger – even though it is a bit Uberpriced. I have never been to the other two.

    But here is what annoys me:

    But the shutdown reportedly took employees by surprise and left an estimated 50 people out of a job.

    While I adore flexible labor markets, this guy is really annoying if he is just going to casually toss 50 people out of work like this…unless possibly his whole empire is falling down…we’ll see. I can’t imagine many of them will want to return, if the restaurants do reopen. They will most likely have new jobs by then , I hope.

    Well…at least the anti-development crowd will be happy. Now there won’t be as much traffic in Evanston, and things will be a little quieter and quaint and charming, and it will be easier for all the people buying shoes and CB radios and seeing their therapists at 708 Church to find parking spaces.

    1. Restaurant location
      As best I can tell, the deli portion of Omaggio is in the Carlson Building while the main restaurant area is in the Library Plaza building. I debated whether to complicate the story with that detail and decided not to.
      Both buildings are on the same tax parcel and are under the same ownership.
      The Library Plaza was built first, and the Carlson Building was originally planned to be 15-stories tall. See for more about that.
      — Bill

    2. It’s not uncommon
      This is not a disagreement about the treatment of employees. It does not seem right or equitable. However, I don’t think that they were the first in Evanston to take this kind of action. Year’s – many – ago there was a wonderful restaurant called Lesley’s in the basement of the Rotary Building. We went there one night and found an “on vacation” sign up. Apparently, the owners closed the doors for a vacation break and only let the employees know when they showed up for work. And never reopened. It had seemed that business had been good. Other places have taken that strategy, as well.

      I am no expert on the issue. But in talking with someone in the industry, I was told that it was a way of keeping ahead of creditors before any liquidation at some point later.

      1. Leslie Reis ran the kitchen
        Leslie Reis ran the kitchen at Cafe Provencal, moved her own “Leslie’s” to the Rotary building’s lower level, but we believe the reason for the restaurant’s shutdown was her [untimely] death…

        1. The restaurant remained open
          The restaurant remained open for a few years following her death in 1990, but the difficulties of re-establishing its reputation without her, combined with a depressed economy (1991), made continuing to run the restaurant, difficult for widower/owner Andrew Reis.

  3. Wonderful Business Sense, Huh?
    If the owner of the building itself is a “major investor” as the article states, their random closing doesn’t bode well for the stability of the Carlson either. This sounds like terriblly bad business sense, and a lack of a responsible landlord. If you were a major investor in three restaurants in *your* building, wouldn’t you make sure 50 jobs and whatever good reputation you have isn’t thrown out the window… just like that?

    Crazy stuff.

  4. Will Uber Burger be open ?
    So tomorrow is Sept 1. I walked by Uber Burger today and saw no signs of life. I wonder if they will be open tomorrow, or Tuesday. Has anyone heard anything about whether they really will return?

    I am not concerned about Omaggio and La Petite Amelia – I would like them to generate some tax revenue, but never ate there – but I would like to get an Uber Expensive Burger and onion rings.

    1. Uber Burger Re-opening? My Source Says No
      Sorry to inform you that it is highly unlikely that Uber Burger will re-open. My source (a former employee) says that the restaurant operator is moving on to other things. Re-opening any of those restaurants is not in his plan now. Sure — anything could happen but it does not look promising.

      It’s sad news for those of us who enjoyed Uber Burger.

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