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Economic Development Agreement Paves the Way for Restaurant

City will improve parking lot at site of new Chuck’s Southern Comforts Café on Cass Avenue.

The Darien City Council voted Monday night to authorize an economic development agreement that will literally help pave the way for a new restaurant to open at the site of the former on Cass Avenue.

According to the terms of the agreement between the City of Darien and Chuck’s Southern Comforts Café, the city will act as general contractor on a project to repave the parking lot, add parking lot striping and blocks, repair storm sewers and run underground wiring for lights, for a total cost of $300,000.

At Monday's meeting, Alderman Joseph Marchese said he wanted to make it clear that the city is not giving away $300,000 to the restaurateur, but making $300,000 worth of repairs and improvements as an incentive to help get the new business up and running.

“We are using our contractors for paving, electrical, concrete, so they can control costs,” Marchese said of the agreement.

And City Attorney John Murphey gave assurances that the city has built in multiple forms of protection to ensure it will recoup its investment in the unlikely event the business would fail. He said the city is under no obligation to issue an occupancy permit for any other new business at the location until the city has been paid in full for the economic incentive to Chuck's.

At a previous city council meeting, Chuck’s owner and chef Chuck Pine said his original restaurant in Burbank takes in about $6 million annually, and predicts the Darien location will bring in about $4 million in its first year.

At that rate, it would take approximately four years for Chuck's to pay back the city through its 2 percent restaurant sales tax.

According to the terms of the incentive agreement, if during the repayment period, the restaurant falls below the projected sales tax amount, the owners would be required to make up the difference to the city.

City manager Bryon Vana said the business is in the process of filing for zoning, securing financing and applying for a liquor license.

Pine has said he hopes the restaurant’s new Darien location will open by late September or early October.

The chef/restaurateur opened Chuck’s BBQ in 1995, changing the name in 1999 to reflect the restaurant’s mix of southern, Mexican and Cajun food items on its menu. Three years ago, the original Chuck’s moved to its current location in Burbank.

Pine worked in Rick Bayless’ famous Topolobampo Mexican restaurant in Chicago before starting his own restaurant, which has been featured in episodes of The Food Network program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and the PBS show Check, Please.

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