Transit commission to review both plans again
The Transit Commission met this afternoon. One of the agenda items was the issue of the tenant in the Metra station cafe. Mark Beutel and Dwane Bowling from Jack’s Cozy Cafe, submitted their simpler version of their original concept for the short-term, which included offering commuters and other customers all of the baked goods originally proposed, as well as several hot breakfast and lunch items. Also available would be all of the beverages and other bottled drinks, as well as coffee and juices. Beutel brought samples of his cold sandwiches and baked goods for the commission members. Copies of his proposed breakfast and lunch menus were attached to his proposal.
For lunch, Jack’s Cozy Cafe would provide the prepared foods needed for service of cold and hot sandwiches, to be finished on site at Jack’s Cozy Cafe 2. These items would be available for service daily, and prepared by Jack’s Cozy Cafe to insure maximum freshness. Less would be done within the train station than originally proposed. Food would be prepared at their original restaurant location and finished on-site.
According to Beutel’s proposal, hours of operation for the cafe would still be from 5:30 am to 2:30 pm. Beutel also offered an attendant manning the parking pass ticket booth from 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm at no cost to the city. This would allow the passengers to acquire their parking passes on site at all hours of business. Ron Iwen, the city’s transportation director, stated that Lou Perrini’s currently provides this service seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
This scaled down proposal was suggested to allow Jack’s Cozy Cafe 2 to begin operation, with the intent of growing the business to the fullness of the original proposal over time, hopefully, within 3 to 6 months. “The scaled down version can be implemented very quickly once the lease is signed.” Beutel also said that he had enough cash and commitments to allow them to expand. They were also expecting some revenue from their advertising program as well. “This was as much as we could do in the 30 days that we were given.”
Beutel’s proposed changes to the lease agreement, which is still being reviewed by the city’s legal department, amended the lease term from five years down to two years. However, he did state that a three- to four-year lease would also be acceptable. In his agreement, he was asking the city for a deferral of the $500/month rent for three months, as “breathing room.”
Beutel’s proposal called for bringing in boards, a flat screen communication station advertising venue with 29 local businesses in and around the local Kenosha area. “This would provide another source of revenue for the cafe to prosper,” he said. “We also looked at three to four newspapers, and several magazine companies. We will continue to look for more funding in the meantime.”
Debbie Eisel from Racine spoke. “Soon, we can have a one-year party to celebrate the amount of time that has elapsed since we had a tenant in that space. I hope that we give the traveling public as much consideration as we have the vendors. I hope that we have a financial commitment and confidence that they will be able to stay open.” She also talked about creating a “Friends of the Train Station” group to collect money to pay a guard, etc. “I hope that we do not just what’s convenient for the vendor, but something that would be open through the rush hour as well.”
Brandon Cameron also spoke. He was concerned about the provision for ticket sales, whether the restaurant survives or not.
Peter Gochis, the secondary tenant, said that his experience has shown that “if a restaurant didn’t open up full steam ahead from the beginning, that their success is limited to none. Waiting until the winter months to open would not be good; there would be no pedestrian traffic.” He said that “he could be open in 30 days full everything. I have the business experience. I can get the equipment in 10 days, and be open in 30.”
Gochis also said that the “city has to be a partner in this. Either he succeeds, or I succeed. I’ve got some ideas to bring income into the city. It’s a dead-end corner. With the pedestrian traffic and the commuters, plus get regular business from the community. It’s necessary to build a good foundation for the first year. The city can’t make it cost-prohibitive.”
Gochis also talked about a way to make additional revenue for either himself and/or the city by renting out sign space out in the hallway. This could create approximately $1,600 to $1,800 in revenue per month. He mentioned that he already had commitments from DeRango’s Pizza and Target. In return, he was asking for a break on the rent for the first year.
Gochis asked how long of a process this was because he had other options. One was 45 minutes outside of the city of Kenosha. “This is what I prefer to do, but if not, I don’t want to lose the opportunity on the other venture.” Gochis also mentioned that there are certain things city government doesn’t know about the restaurant business, certain things that interfere with business. He also stated that he operated a stand for 16 years outside of Chicago.
Beutel said that it was his hope that the committee will see fit to continue working with him and his partner in the project and allow Jack’s Cozy Cafe 2 to occupy the space in this way so that they can bring their food and friendship to the downtown area.
The commission unanimously decided to have each proposed tenant update their proposals, draft their lease terms, include their hours of operation, business plan variables, phase-in plan, etc. This will allow the commission members to lay each business plan side by side and compare them. The objective would be that, on or about October 1st, a final decision would be made.