A Glencoe restaurant that built an outdoor dining “streetery” during the COVID-19 pandemic will be allowed to keep it for one more year.
Representatives from Guildhall, 694 Vernon Ave., appeared in front of the Glencoe Board of Trustees during its Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, Jan. 18, to ask for an extension of their current licensing agreement for the streetery, which is set to expire in April.
The structure has been in place since mid-October 2022, according to village documents. It’s located in the public right-of-way, has seating for more than 60 diners and is climate-controlled, in addition to containing removable side panels so it can be used year-round.
Guildhall’s licensing agreement for the streetery was initially approved in April 2022, and it was renewed for a one-year term the following April.
At the Committee of the Whole meeting, Village President Howard Roin said that with COVID-19 not being as concerning as it was two years ago, he wanted to hear the thoughts of the other trustees before deciding whether to extend the agreement for another one-year term.
But he shared other concerns as well, including whether the streetery is something that the Village wants in its primary business district and if an appropriate price is being charged by the Village for the structure.
Per the agreement, Guildhall pays $0.50 per square foot per month, which has totaled $449.50 per month in fees over two years, according to Village documents.
Roin said his biggest concern, however, is that other businesses have approached the Village and asked if they could have similar structure.
“And the answer, I think, is going to be ‘no,’” he said. “We would be a kasbah with a little tiny lane if we let everybody build out into the street.”
Jeff Shapack, Guildhall’s owner, spoke at length about why he believes the streetery should stay for one more year.
“From our standpoint, while the pandemic and COVID may not be at the top of the conversation every day anymore, we had those two really bad years that we’re still digging ourselves out of,” he said.
He added that, while the Village approved the streetery in April 2022, it didn’t open until October of that year because of challenges in obtaining all the materials for it.
“…Literally 15 months is all we’ve had to try and make back the investment,” Shupack said. “It’s our desire to have it for longer.”
Shupack added that he and Guildhall’s leadership knew that the streetery would not be allowed to continue forever, but they would like it to stand for a longer period of time.
“And we want Guildhall to be here for a long time,” he said. “And our hope is to be able to maintain a streetery for some time.”
After hearing Shupack and other Guildhall representatives speak, Roin voiced support for renewing the licensing agreement for one more year.
“We’ll plan on another year, and we’ll plan on not the same thing after that,” Roin said. “But I don’t know what exactly it’ll be.”
Trustee Gail Lissner also voiced support for allowing the streetery to stay standing for another year, saying that Guildhall “need(s) to plan their business.”
“We have been renewing this at a one-year extension, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” she said. “I think they bring a lot of vibrancy to downtown and their ability to get 60 (extra) people in that space, of course, makes their whole restaurant much more viable.”
Roin said it’s important for the Village to determine how it wants to regulate streeteries because they can’t allow Guildhall to have one but not other businesses.
“Maybe there are going to be cutouts into the street so that there’s more space,” he said. “But maybe we don’t have a permanent structure, because our tiny little business district can’t accommodate those. It certainly can’t accommodate many of them.”
Guildhall co-founder Alec Litowitz said he not only supported the one-year streetery extension, but also offered to form a committee of downtown restauranteurs that will work with the Village on what the future of outdoor dining could look like in Glencoe.
“I think there would be a very willing group of people (who will have) a discussion about what should go forward and what should be the right cost for that,” he said.
Roin was agreeable to the idea, and said ultimately, he wants to be fair to both Guildhall and the other restaurants in Glencoe.
“We’ll try to figure out a way to do this so that you aren’t punished,” he said. “We can’t give you favoritism, but we are grateful and we know how important you guys are.”
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Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.