A patio for outdoor dining and entertainment at Peckish Pig, 623 Howard St., is slated to open with a bit of Evanston history: brick pavers removed from various City projects.
The City of Evanston owns the property, and the restaurant/brew pub has a lease-to-own agreement with the City.
Although work on the patio, once contracted, went smoothly over three Saturdays, at least one resident became suspicious at the sight of City trucks in front of the bar one Saturday. Junad Rizki told the RoundTable he was on his way to Chicago when he saw “eight or nine” City trucks there, got out of his car and talked to them about the work. Because it was a Saturday, Mr. Rizki said he figured the workers, but not the supervisors, might be receiving overtime payment. He said with his knowledge of architectural engineering, he estimated that the cost of the work would be greater than $20,000 and thought that City Council should have discussed the matter before authorizing the work.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz confirmed part of that in an email to the RoundTable. He said he began a conversation in July with Debbie Evans, one of the owners of the Peckish Pig. “She lamented the amount of time the project was taking and how the entire summer would likely pass without a patio. I decided at that point to have Johanna [Nyden of the City’s Economic Development division] and Assistant Director of Public Works Jim Maiworm take a look at the status of the project and see if we had expertise to help. It turns out we did. I instructed staff to assist with the project as long as it was all done on overtime and that we capture all costs and bill back to the restaurant. Our [Public Works] staff is awfully busy doing regular projects, so I insisted on overtime as to not take away from their regular duties.”
Ms. Evans’ version of events is similar: “When we opened the restaurant, we were going to do the patio. We put money aside to do it,” she told the RoundTable. The original concept was a deck-like structure, but “because of drainage, it had to be done with permeable pavers.
“We were inundated with phone calls about when the patio would be done. … We called [several] landscaping companies to do it, but they were all too busy. We couldn’t find anyone to do it.” Finally, she said, they asked the City for help and received contact information about two companies that might have been able to handle the job, “but we were told [by each] that it is too late in the game [for this season].
“I called the City and said I’d pay the City [crews to do the work]. The City put the pavers down and finished it in three Saturdays.”
The City purchased the building at 623-627½ Howard St. in October of 2011 for $475,000, with an eye to spending another $200,000 on the building to bring its mechanicals, including HVAC, plumbing and electricals, up to code and turn over a “vanilla box” to the new restaurant for it to finish. A patio for outdoor eating and entertainment was also envisioned from the start. With the build-out, the total price of the building increased to $675,000, which would be the amount Peckish Pig owners would pay should they exercise the option to purchase. The lease provides for no rent for the first 18 months of operations, and then graduated rent thereafter. All rent paid prior to the purchase-option exercise date will count toward the purchase price, an arrangement that mirrors the agreement the City has with Ward 8 bar and restaurant, 629 Howard St. Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson said he did not know about the City’s involvement in helping with the patio beforehand but that he is “not bothered about it.”
“[The main work was] repurposing the paver bricks and possibly putting up a wall. My understanding is that we’re billing them. … It’s City property.”
Ald. Wilson said that he voted against giving money to the Peckish Pig for its build-out but was on the losing side. He added, “Once the democratic process has taken over, we try to make it work.”
Mr. Bobkiewicz said the City estimates the cost of the work and the pavers to be less than $20,000. Expenditures of City funds in amounts greater than $20,000 must be approved by City Council.
The City’s Public Works Director, Suzette Robinson, told the RoundTable any resident wishing to purchase used pavers should go online to the 311 section of the City’s website, cityofevanston.org,and reference her name and the Public Works Department.