The city would redo the parking lot, as well as work on other exterior projects up to the $300,000 limit at the old Cornerstone Restaurant building on Cass Avenue.
Municipal Services Director Dan Gombac said the city would serve as general contractor on the project. The concrete and pavement companies with which Darien contracts have agreed to honor their 2012 prices, he said.
Chuck’s would pay the difference if the project goes over $300,000, café representative Jim Pine said. Since Darien would pay the contractors directly, Chuck’s wouldn’t receive cash from the city if the project comes in under budget.
City Administrator Bryon Vana said the city has extra money in its 2013 budget because the council did not ultimately approve all the ditch projects originally slated for completion this summer. That decision opened up about $535,000 in the budget.
The original Chuck’s in Burbank brings in about $6 million annually, Pine said. He predicted a Darien location would generate about $4 million its first year. Because of its proximity to Interstate 55, however, he said it could soon eclipse $7 or $8 million in yearly sales.
At Darien’s 2 percent sales tax rate for restaurants, it would take just shy of four years for the city to recoup its investment if Chuck’s brings in $4 million in annual receipts.
If it takes longer than four years for Darien to break even on its investment, Pine said the café’s owners would pay the city the difference in cash.
Vana said the city will work with Chuck’s over the next few weeks on securing collateral on the investment in the event the café would close before Darien gets its money back.
The café’s first incarnation, known as Chuck’s BBQ, opened in 1995. It underwent a name change in 1999 to encompass the blend of southern, Mexican and Cajun food on its menu. Three years ago it moved one mile down the road to its current Burbank location.
Chef Chuck Pine worked in Rick Bayless’ famed Topolobampo Mexican restaurant before starting his own café. The Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives featured Chuck’s in an October 2011 episode.
Several aldermen expressed their support of the incentive.
“In this situation, if we have a breakfast location-slash-dinner location in that area, I truly believe it’s going to pay for itself,” Ward 1 Alderman Ted Schauer said.
Ward 4 Alderman Joerg Seifert said he thought the deal was a win-win for the city, regardless what eventually happened to the restaurant.
“We’d still have improved a property that’s not there now,” he said.
Gombac said he has received more than 100 emails from residents over the past few days supporting the project.
The city will work with Chuck’s over the next few weeks to finalize details of the agreement, which will come up for official vote at the July 16 City Council meeting.
If all elements of the deal go through on schedule, Pine said he expects the restaurant could open by late September or early October.