Thursday, January 31, 2013

Update (Kinda) on El Greco

The Southern has some more on El Greco's closing, including a comment from the previous owner, Tasis Karayiannis, that his understanding is that the closing is only temporary and he expects El Greco's re-opened within a few days, with the same menu.  The new owner, Chandrakant Patel, who also owns BlueFish Liquor and Cigars and at least one hotel in town, did not comment on a re-opening date.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

El Greco Closed

Bad news yet again.  From El Greco's Facebook status:

Thank you from the Karayiannis family for all of your patronage over the past 35+ years. El Greco is changing ownership and will unfortunately be closed as of tonight. Stop in for your last gyro fix - we are open until 9pm.

 Line of 20+ plus people was stretching out the door past Old Towne Liquors about 6 p.m. and the restaurant ran out of food about 8 p.m.  Ownership of both it and Old Towne have changed hands after 35+ years.  Purchased by the owner of Bluefish Liquor and Cigars.  No indication as to what will happen with the pair of businesses.  Hazarding a guess, I would bet the wall gets knocked out and Old Towne expanded, possibly onto the vacant American Tap lot next door.

Several years ago,  I was told by someone in a position to know that El Greco broke even at best and needed to see a significant increase in sales to justify remaining open.  Apparently, much like the Mississippi Flyway, customers waited until the announcement of the closing before patronizing them in numbers sufficient to keep the business open.  Important to remember if there is a restaurant (or other business) you really like and want to stay around, spend money there now and encourage others to do so as well, otherwise it may follow in the tracks of El Greco, the Flyway, El Baijo and others.  A restaurant announces its closing after sales have declined consistently over a long period of time.  Generally, they can work their way through a bad month or two, but it is very hard for a small business to come back from several years of declining sales.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Jane Adams and the DE on Polar Bear

Councilwoman Adams spend much of Saturday night crusing with the Carbondale PD around downtown Carbondale the night of Polar Bear and has posted a report to her blog.  The DE has photo coverage hereIt appears a surprisingly quiet night for the police department, at least based on news posted on their website and from Adams comments.  Strangely, I found no coverage in the Southern Illinoisan about the event, save for descriptions of city preparations for the event.

On the agenda at City Council tonight is a proposal to reduce the number of  available class B liquor licenses from 16 to 15, which are all currently held by operating bars and restaurants.  If the license cap is reduced, anyone wishing to open a bar in town would not only have to get a liquor license but would first have to petition the city council to raise the liquor license cap in order to make another license available, putting another hurdle in the way of someone wishing to start a business in C'dale.  There is also the question of whether we want to encourage the opening of more bars within the community.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Polar Bear

Drove past Pinch Penny Pub and through downtown Carbondale about 10 p.m. Saturday night. Crowds were huge in the Pinch Penny area as well as the water and heat stations set up nearby. While I didn't see any police vehicles in the area, I did notice an ambulance parked across the street from Pinch and I understand from a couple of hospital employees that the ERs were packed with lots of drunks and at least one overdose.

Delivery restaurants apparently were quite busy as well, as I heard that one place had over $1000 just in voids on Saturday, caused by canceled orders or delivery people not being able to find the address.  Downtown C'dale on Saturday night looked fairly busy, with more people out walking/staggering on S. Illinois than I have seen in awhile and the first line waiting to get into Stix since I don't remember when.  No idea what the occupancy rate was on hotel rooms or if they filled as they reportedly did last year.

I expect the council will discuss Polar Bear and similar events at its meeting tomorrow night, especially since a discussion regarding reducing liquor license caps and ending the Halloween closure of three bars in downtown are on the agenda.  Mayor Fritzler is not really thrilled about events such as Polar Bear and word is he may push for an end to it and similar alcohol fueled activities.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Icebox Closed

Notice of an Order of Possession signed by Judge Charles Grace on Jan. 23 against Kevin Kirkwood d. b. a. Icebox Bar and Grill, ordering Kirkwood to surrender the premises at 227 W. Main Street to the property owners immediately and to pay them a judgment of $28,740.  The notice is taped to the back door of the Icebox and the front door has been barred shut from the inside.

Polar Bear

The 12th annual Polar Bear event takes place tomorrow at Pinch Penny Pub and the Copper Dragon.  Meanwhile, a number of "Puck Finch" events take place over the weekend at other nearby bars.

Carbondale police have announced increased patrols focusing on alcohol this weekend (likely parking across the street from Pinch Penny Pub as they did last year and Mayor Fritzler  and Chancellor Cheng have both sent out letters about the events (here and here).  Last year, Polar Bear attracted more notice than normal after a drunken 19 year old (it was never clear if he had attended one of the events) attempted to jump on a passing train and slipped off, losing a leg.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

P-Mac Music Closing

On the heels of the announcement that Mississippi Flyway is closing, P-mac Music has announced the store located in the Park Place strip mall has gone to shorter hours and will close its doors at the end of March.  Hours for the store now are Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with discounts on all merchandise.  After March, anything remaining will transfer to the Cape Girardeau location.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Planning Commission Meeting

Planning Commission meets tonight at 6 p.m.  Though the agenda is pretty short:

A. PC 13-06, The City of Carbondale’s request to rezone property zoned R-1-8A, Low Density Residential; R-2.4, Medium Density Residential Four-Unit Dwelling; and BRD, Business Redevelopment
      B. PC 13-07, Proposed Amendments to Title 15 of the Carbondale Revised Code

it looks as if this is the first step in revising the zoning code so that it is more consistent and follows the city's Comprehensive Plan more closely.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

American Tap Property Available

Looks as if the city is getting serious about putting a business on the old American Tap property at 518 S. University, at least based on this email sent out today:

The City of Carbondale is offering an exciting new incentive for real estate developers. As a result of the newly adopted Illinois-University Corridor TIF-#2 interest in downtown property is increasing. In an effort to promote and revitalize downtown Carbondale, the City is encouraging development of its property at 518 South Illinois Avenue to a local investor that is willing to present their development idea.

The City of Carbondale will review proposals and make the award selection based on the guidelines outlined on its website . Questions pertaining to the new economic development incentive should be directed to Gary Williams, Economic Development Coordinator at 457-3286.

I am not sure if this means they are willing to give it to the developer.  I know the owners of El Greco have approached the city in the past about acquiring the property for use as an outdoor patio for the restaurant. The city has turned them down, from what I understand, because it hopes to infil the space with a building. There have been several inquiries but nothing has moved beyond the inquiring stage.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mississippi Flyway Closing

Long-time Carbondale favorite Mississippi Flyway posted on their Facebook page that the restaurant will close at the end of January.  The post blames it on the rising cost of operating and competition from the influx of chain restaurants into Carbondale in recent years. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Planning Commission Meeting

Meeting of the planning commission next Wednesday, Jan 23 at 6 p.m.  Here are the items on the agenda:

PC 13-06, The City of Carbondale’s request to rezone property zoned R-1-8A,
Low Density Residential; R-2.4, Medium Density Residential Four-Unit
Dwelling; and BRD, Business Redevelopment

B. PC 13-07, Proposed Amendments to Title 15 of the Carbondale Revised Code

No idea where the proposed rezoning will take place.  I would not be surprised to see a request eventually to rezone the new Sycamore and Oakland TIF District to Business Redevelopment as the area is currently unusable and likely not profitable for building the single family residences for which the area is zoned.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Another Bandana's Update

No idea why but according to some people who should know, Bandana's has pushed its opening back to January 28.  Though I probably will never eat there, I am glad to see another chain restaurant opening in downtown.  Why?

Chains go where money and customers are.  Unlike local businesses, who can open up with lower foot traffic and generally get lower rent, a chain store is a very expensive proposition to operate.  Chains generally do not put stores in locations where they have not done extensive market research first to determine if the customer base is large enough to support their operation.  Just like Tres Hombres or Stix or Dayshift, they are in the business to make money.  By locating in the downtown area, the company indicates it believes there is money to be made here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Favorite Toys Kinda Closing

If you are local, you probably have seen that My Favorite Toys is reducing its hours to one weekend a month, closing their doors next month, then re-opening for a weekend in March, then one weekend a month until the Christmas season, when they will open again full time.

This means they must be getting a great deal on rent from University Mall, since it appears they will retain the floor space but not generate any foot traffic to cover lease expenses.  For all intents and purposes, two wings of University Mall now sit empty.  Most of the storefronts in the wing with the food court have converted to SI Healthcare offices and the food court sits empty, last time I looked, save for the arcade in the corner.  The wing that housed My Favorite Toys will now only have Master Cuts as a business, as the Science Center and the African American Museum occupy the storefronts across from My Favorite Toys.  Both are non-profits and likely get lowered rents from University Mall.  

I just find the strategy that My Favorite Toys has chosen interesting.  If they truly want to pursue an online business, it would make more financial sense to move to the industrial park on the north side of town and operate there.  If they want to keep the storefront operating and contribute to the community, as seems the plan, move to a smaller storefront and run a "back door" operation (Nothing illegal about this, it's a term referring to a business that maintains a retail storefront but does most of its business online).  At least, the retail storefront would help generate some expenses to cover ongoing costs.  It will be interesting to see how this version of a back door operation works out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Armory Zoning

Stopped by City Hall with some questions about the recently enacted TIF districts and found an interesting quirk in the zoning for the old National Guard Armory at the corner of Oakland and Sycamore that recently sold    Most of the property is zoned single family residential, meaning only houses on a certain sized lot (8000 square feet, I think) unless the property either gets rezones or a special use exemption.

However, the parking lot for the building is zoned multi family, meaning a developer could build townhouses or apartments only on that part of the property without seeking a rezoning but  not on the rest of the grounds.  Weird little glitch in the zoning boundaries and the owner still could not develop it for business use without getting a rezoning request through the planning commission and city council.

Monday, January 14, 2013

La Fogata nee Evelyn's

It appears Evelyn's Restaurant couldn't make it as Evelyn's Restaurant and is repositioning itself as La Fogata, with a Mexican theme and the return of "burritos as big as your head". They better hope La Bamba's doesn't have that phrase trademarked.

Halloween Redeaux?

The annual Halloween bar closure may come to an end now that Hanger 9 owner Sally Carter has decided to approach the Liquor Advisory Board regarding ending it.  For years now, bars on the Strip have had to close the weekend before Halloween in an attempt to end the raucous party that accompanied the holiday.  Now the closure only affects 4 bars: Hangar 9, Sidetracks, Gatsby's and Stix.  Even Old Town Liquors, which did close for several years the nights of the ban, now remains open and SIUC, which used to schedule fall break for Halloween weekend, in order to move students out of town during the period, has moved it to a weekend earlier in the month.

Generally, no discussion takes place regarding removing the ban until September, when people start thinking about it again and considering the possibility of removing it.  Unfortunately, due to the time it takes to move a proposal through the LAB first, then City Council.  Look at how long it took to move the ordinance allowing chickens within the city limits to move through council.  Serious discussion started in 2009 but the ordinance didn't get approved until 2012.  Ergo, starting discussion regarding changing the ordinance now, rather than waiting until September, bodes well for those wanting to remove or alter it.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Carbondale Police report several break-ins this week on both South Poplar and North Oakland.  It looks like the South Poplar thieves have been caught but the ones active on N. Oakland still might be at large.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

University Safety Ratings

According to the rankings at State, SIUC ranks 18th in the state in terms of safety, based on reported crimes and number 7 compared to other state universities.  One thing that differentiates SIUC from other top ranked universities is the reported incidents of arson, reported at only two of the other rated institutions.  At least no murders took place, as did at U of I Chicago.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bandana's Update

According to what I have heard, planned opening date for the new Bandana's BBQ is Tuesday January 15.  Supposedly, stocks of food and beer both arrived this week.  However, if they have been actively hiring, the company has kept it pretty quiet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Candidate Withdrawls

As the email below notes, two candidates for city council have withdrawn from the election, ergo no primary, which does save the since the expense of running two separate elections:

Due to the withdrawal of two candidates, the three (3) Council seats up for election are now uncontested. [65 ILCS 5/3.1-20-45]. As such, there will be no primary held for the purpose of narrowing the field of City Council Member candidates. The two candidates who filed their withdrawals with the local election official are Lorena Masterson, effective January 4, 2013, and Carl R. Flowers, effective January 8, 2013. 

The amended listing of candidates and their respective placement on the ballot is as follows:

Blaine Tisdale, 1101 East Grand Avenue, Apartment E-4
            Brent Ritzel, 810 North Springer Street
Carolin Harvey, 109 South Tower Road
Lee M. Fronabarger, 1140 Morningside Drive
            Jessica C. Bradshaw, 512 North Carico Street, Apartment A
Navreet S. Kang, 613 South Terrace Drive   
            William Graham, 403 West Elm #3
            Jerrold Hennrich, 610 West Sycamore
            Luke L. Adams Jr., 809 West Walnut Apt. 4  
            Karim H. Abdullah, 915 East Cindy Street
            Tony D. Holsey, 1010 N. Almond Street
            Pepper Holder, 410 East James & Thelma Walker Avenue

Monday, January 7, 2013

City Council and Energy Aggregation

City Council meets tomorrow night.  A couple of major items on the agenda:  contract for the new fire station and a vote authorizing the mayor and city manager to enter into a contract for electric aggrigation.  The entric aggrigation vote does not actaully choose an electric provider, since the city's negotiatior, Select Energy Providers, will not supmit the list of suppliers until January 9.  At the end of tomorrow night's meeting, the time and place of a follow up meeting to discuss and vote upon the city's chosen supplier.

There are a number of communities represented in the neogiations by Select Energy Partners: 
Chester, Coulterville, Elkville, Marion, Sparta, Steeleville, Tamaroa,  West Frankfort and Unincorporated Perry County.  All of these will participate in the aggregation and all must vote to select the same energy supplier.  However, each community may select the level of "green energy", ranging from a base rate of 9%, required by state law, up to 100%
From what I have heard, Carbondale is the only community in the aggregation leaning heavily towards any appreciable level of green energy, with other communities leaning heavily towards coal fueled providers as a show of support towards southern Illinois' coal mining industry.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fire Department

Given that one of the city's major projects over the next year or so is the new fire station on the west side of town, I found this column on the changing purposes of the fire department interesting. Due to greater awareness of fire safety, smoke detectors and general good practices, the number of calls to  fire departments nationwide has shifted to 80% medical related and only 20% actual fire calls.