Jack’s Cozy Cafe receives another month extension
At last night’s Transit Commission meeting, it was agreed to extend the time frame for the chosen tenant, Jack’s Cozy Cafe, to gather his equipment and investors, in order to move into the vacant Metra station building space. This will also give the city time to review the lease, which their consultant, Craig Zucker, made changes to.
Mark Beutel and Dwane Bowling, partners in the business, are still looking for investors, and they are also still looking for a vendor from whom they can purchase some used kitchen equipment, although Zucker said that a lead had just been located that day in that regard. Beutel said, “Several want to invest, but no one wants to be the first one. We also have an application into WIBIC (Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation). We also have an appointment at our bank tomorrow. They were restructured recently, and the new principal is now ready to talk to us. All we’re asking for is more time.”
Beutel also stated that they’ve found out that state job creation funds are only earmarked for manufacturing. “The Kenosha Area Business Alliance (KABA) is not a help to me either, nor is the downtown Business Improvement District (BID). I’m west of Sheridan Road. KABA won’t help because I’m asking for less than $100,000, plus I’m not forming a corporate office or purchasing property.” He asked for suggestions for agencies other than WIBIC, but the commission had no other suggestions for him.
Beutel also said that some of the equipment they need may not need to be purchased, because, as an example, 7-Up is offering to provide the display cooler free of charge. Also, one investor is apparently interested in providing equipment rather than cash. Beutel also stated that Bowling has been scouting the surrounding area to determine what businesses might be interested in their commercial flat screen advertising.
Alderperson Daniel Prozanski, who chaired the meeting tonight in place of chairman Eric Haugaard who was out of town, asked Beutel how much it would take in total to open the doors. Beutel’s reply was “about $35,000 to $50,000. With the investor’s equipment, possibly that amount could come down to $12,500 to $30,000.”
Zucker made a few comments about “needing an influx of cash to make it happen.”
Transit director Ron Iwen said that he has received lots of calls and complaints about no one being in the facility. “There was another prospective tenant, Mr. Gochis, the former owner of Bull & Bear. He is still interested,” said Iwen. Commissioner Shanon Molina stated that she thought that a cut-off date was needed.
Beutel said that once the money is received, that they could get the ball rolling. They could be open in three to four weeks. Iwen stated that Gochis has said that he could be open within a couple of weeks. Beutel said, “I thought Jack’s was chosen because our concept was preferred. I’m not Gochis. I don’t have the equipment; I don’t have a bag full of money. I have the desire to have a better business.”
Zucker then talked about some of the problems that the prior tenant had. “There were issues with price, limited availability of items, and the quality of the items sold. The prior tenant was blind-sided about various costs.” He mentioned the sale of parking tickets, the cost of utilities, and maintenance on the building. Iwen mentioned that “$1 million of renovations had recently been performed on the building, so that there shouldn’t be anything that needed rehabbing. Everything is new.” Zucker also mentioned the desire to have a two-year lease, rather than a five-year lease.
Beutel mentioned the prior tenant’s being let out of their five-year lease free and clear after six months. “I wouldn’t want to do that to you. It’s not that we’re afraid of a five-year lease.” Zucker stated that, “We asked for a two-year lease, with two two-year extensions.” “I expect to be there 15 years,” Buetel said.
Prozanski stated that “we seem to be in the same boat. You need more time, and we also need time to review the changes you’ve made to the lease agreement. You’re getting a building with $1 million in renovations. The rent is low. There are some perks being provided. We need a service provided. Instead of any tenant, we want the right tenant. There is an opportunity cost being lost here. We need to get someone else lined up who’s interested. I’m torn. We will give you the time you need, but we also need to pursue and have conversations with others. We both need to move forward. We all need to feel protected.”
Zucker also threw out the idea of starting up on a scaled-down version. That would require a minimal amount of money. “We could offer coffee, muffins, cold sandwiches. That would eliminate a major portion of the expenses. We could be up and running as quickly as two weeks,” said Beutel. He wanted to know if the commission was willing to entertain that option.
Iwen replied, “It scares me. If you’re in business and you don’t have enough money to start the company, what happens when something happens? It’s been since April. A company should have a couple of years’ worth of money to cover the what if’s.” Beutel mentioned that he is digging out of a prior partner’s debt fiasco. “If it wouldn’t have been for that, we would have had the money. We have the investors. We need your belief in us, from the city as well as the customers. I hope you still believe in us.”
Prozanski said that, since this was only a discussion item on the agenda, that a vote wasn’t required. However, he encouraged continued discussions with Iwen that “would be fair for all parties.” The next meeting would be in one month. “We should have a pretty good idea of where we’re going at that time.” Prozanski asked Iwen to keep the commission up to date via e-mail. Prozanski said to the three gentlemen, “See you in a month, if not sooner.”
In other business conducted at the meeting, Iwen talked about the 2013 budget. “It’s in full swing. It will be finalized in December. With funding from the state and federal, we should have a nice balanced budget,” he said.
Parking lots around the city are mostly under the Transit Department’s authority. Across from the Heritage Inn, the sinkholes in the parking lot have been repaired. Other lots around the city have also been worked on. The work done on the lots has been repairing, sealing, and striping. “There are two more in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for 2013. It costs about $5,000 for each lot. It increases the longevity of the lot,” said Iwen.
And, lastly, Iwen talked about the streetcar expansion. “The city received $8.3 million from the feds, and another $2 million from local money. We can add two miles of track. That would be the north/south addition along 8th Avenue. We are going to go ahead with the expansion. It could get interesting.”
Molina wanted to know if the route was set in stone, and Iwen said no. “Funds have been there for the last couple of years. We need to use them, or we lose them.”
Prozanski mentioned The Lakota Group, the Chicago-based consultant that has been working with the city on the downtown study. “They have defined the downtown area and the two miles of track that it would cover. But, the route is not definite.”
Molina said that she has talked to a lot of people, and she has read all of the Voice of the People articles in the Kenosha News. “It’s been a mixed bag of responses on the trolley expansion.”
One of the commissioners asked about ridership. Iwen said that “there is typically a downturn in the summer, plus the extreme heat played into it as well. We had 2800 riders on the streetcar during the Taste of Wisconsin weekend. It’s a nice tool to get people to and from events. We get 55,000 annually.”
Molina also wanted to know whether the routes are fixed. “During the 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. timeframe, and the 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. timeframe, we pick up an influx with Tripper 6. Saturday ridership has remained flat at about 300.”