Two proposed zoning changes in the 47th Ward were considered in The Chicago City Council Zoning Committee yesterday. One passed and another was deferred for a later vote.
The first proposal, made by Nick Kontalonis and Bill Brandt for 3830-32 N. Lincoln, for their proposed new Big Bricks restaurant (first reported here), was passed. The Big Bricks owners requested an upzone from B1-2 to B2-3, which would allow the location to change from a limited use restaurant to full service.
“[We needed the change] for us to put in the second floor of seating and to have seating at the front bar,” said partner Kontalonis.
A great deal of work has already been done on the space.
“It was a real rat trap, according to the neighbors,” said Kontalonis. “The first thing we did was to clean up the back yard. We’ve already torn out pretty much everything except the exterior of the building. The garage is coming down soon so we can have handicapped parking in the back.”
“Now that we got the zoning, we’ll probably have our plans ready in the next four weeks, and then we’ll really be running,” says Brandt.
The new restaurant will closely mirror Brandt’s Bricks restaurant on Lincoln and Wisconsin, with a cocktails, beer, pizza and salads menu. “There will be some differences. I take beer seriously,” said Brandt, “so we’re planning to have 20 taps and a BBQ pit for baby backs and chicken.”
What about the neighborhood Half Acre and Metropolitan beers? “Of course!” exclaimed Brandt. “We want to be a neighborhood place, so we’ll certainly be pouring both of those companies’ beers.”
“Hopefully, hopefully! We’ll be open by Christmas time this year,” said Kontalonis.
The second location considered for a zoning change, proposed by John Clement for 3816 N. Western Ave, was deferred by 47th Ward Alderman Eugene Schulter. The proposed change for the former Sierra Auto Group location was to upzone from B3-2 Commercial Shopping to C2-2 Motor Vehicle Commercial to, “Establish indoor/outdoor light equipment sales and repairs,” according to the notice posted on the property.
Deferral is part of a long-standing tradition in City Council where the Zoning Committee will not consider any zoning changes without the local Alderman’s consent. Thus, without Ald. Schulter’s consent, the zoning will not move forward.
According to Ald. Schulter’s press secretary, Robert Rawls, “The Alderman will continue to defer [the proposed zoning change] until he sees they have a proper business plan in place.”
Attorney John Pikarsky, of Gordon & Pikarski, who is representing Clement for the proposed zoning change, does not think Ald. Schulter’s deferral is a long-term roadblock. “He frequently defers matters. That’s not an unusual thing to do,” said Pikarski.
“We filed the zoning to reclaim the historic zoning of that property. It’s been used for 50 or 70 years as a used car lot. It was downzoned by the Alderman a few years ago,” said Pikarski. “The existing tenant allowed his licensing to run out, and thus we lost our right to call it a preexisting non-conforming use as a used car lot…It’s the same family that has owned that property for 50 or 70 years. [The Clement family] operated a car dealership in that same spot for years.”
When asked why he thinks Ald. Schulter deferred the proposed change, Pikarski said, “I’m sure he wants to look at it more deeply. I’m sure they want to be comfortable with the tenants.”
Would the Clement family look for a tenant other than a used car dealership once the zoning was changed? “No. No. No,” said Pikarski. “We weren’t seeking anything foul. This is a business zone, not a manufacturing zone. We want to use the property for the commercial activity that is consistent with what Western Avenue has been known for for years.”