The owners of Chuck’s Southern Comforts Café are looking to Darien as the site for a second restaurant.
But their purchase of the former Cornerstone Restaurant building at 8025 S. Cass Ave. is dependent on a $300,000 economic incentive from the city of Darien.
Café representative Jim Pine said in an email to the city that without the incentive, Chuck’s wouldn’t be able to complete necessary remodeling, including replacing the parking lot, curbing and driveways.
Failure to secure the funding would either “delay or stop the project,” he wrote, because the contract to purchase the building depends on receiving extra help.
Owner and chef Chuck Pine, who honed his skills under Rick Bayless at Topolobampo, opened the flagship café in Burbank in 1995. The Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives featured its blend of Southern and Mexican flavors in an October 2011 episode.
Pine wrote that the Burbank location makes about $6 million a year and employs between 90-95 staff members. He said he expects the Darien location would bring in about $4 million its first year.
At the city’s 2 percent sales tax rate for restaurants, it would take about 3.75 years for Darien to recoup the costs of the incentive. Pine said Chuck’s partners would repay the rest of the incentive out of their pockets if it took the city more than four years to get its money back.
In the proposed agreement, Municipal Services Director Dan Gombac wrote that the city would serve as general contractor on the renovations tied into the incentive package.
The elements of the project and their estimated cost include:
- Concrete work: $47,000
- Pavement: $210,000
- Parking spot striping and blocks: $10,000
- Storm sewer repairs: $25,000
- Underground wiring for lights: $10,000
Pine said the restaurant team plans to complete an additional $110,000 in renovations with its own funds. He estimated that the restaurant could be open as soon as October, as long as the economic incentive goes through.
“We are hoping to have a very positive impact on Darien through drawing in much more traffic, as Chuck’s is considered a destination establishment,” Pine wrote. “Patrons don’t come to us just because we’re in the neighborhood, they come from afar and out of their way to visit us.”
The restaurant’s centerpiece is its barbecue, including pulled pork slow-roasted in banana leaves before it’s smoked. Chuck’s also serves dishes with a Mexican flare, such as chicken enchiladas and grilled shrimp quesadillas.
City Council will discuss during a special meeting Monday whether to give the agreement preliminary approval.
Should it get that preliminary stamp, any zoning variances Chuck’s applies for will go before a public hearing July 18.