I've been to Evanston's civic building four times in the past week. The first and most important thing to deal with is through the zoning office. Evanston has two "types" of restaurants; type one is the typical table service with waiters and tips type establishment, and type two is quick-serve, fast food, and anything else that doesn't use servers. ALL type two restaurants are required to attain a special use ordinance.
Now, the current occupant's restaurant already went through the process, which involves the planning and zoning committee meeting and discussing the proposed restaurant and how it might impact the area, allowing a period for public comment, and giving a recommendation to the city council who can either vote aye or nay, or kick it back up to planning and zoning. Fun!
The process for me is somewhat easier. I apply for what they're calling a "substitution" which allows me to simply change the name of the restaurant on the existing ordinance. I filled out a few forms, paid $385, and now I wait for my request to wind its way through the process.
I've also paid a few visits to the Dept. of Public Health, which handles all (or most) restaurant-related paperwork. Thankfully, since we aren't planning on doing any construction in the new space, we got to skip the incredibly detailed 17-page building permit application, so I just filed forms detailing the info about our newly-formed corporation, and that's it. For now.
Then, today, after I went back and handed in some forms, checked on the status of others, I paid a visit to the folks that deal with signage. They informed me that, per Evanston appearance standards, I am obliged to leave 85% of my awning as blank space. And if I want to put words like "burgers", "fries", or "shakes" along the bottom of the awning, that's a special variance that I'll need to apply for. I asked about a hanging sign that sits perpendicular to the building, so that people approaching the restaurant on the same side of the street can see the signage, and was informed that the maximum size they allow is 2x3 feet, "so you probably don't even want to bother. Plus, that's a special variance--need to apply for that."
Another thing Evanston offers is the opportunity to do a walk-thru with the health inspector that will eventually become MY health inspector. This seems like a great opportunity. I haven't asked the seller if he'd agree to allowing this, but if he does, I'll at least be able to find out about any big and/or costly changes that this guy is going to require once he inspects for real.
Logic would indicate that there wouldn't BE any issues, since this very guy just inspected the currently-operating restaurant within the last six months, but that's not always how it works. Often, when the city knows that a change of ownership/concept is happening, they view it as an opportunity to get the building up to code. They're more likely to let a longstanding owner slide on pre-existing code violations than they are if you just bought the place. That's just a fact of life.
It may sound like I'm complaining, and I am, to some extent, I suppose, but I realize that if this were the City of Chicago that I was dealing with, the whole thing would've been ten times more time-consuming and frustrating, and I wouldn't be halfway as far through the process as I currently am. I'm also finding the city employees in Evanston to be so incredibly pleasant. They're nice and appear calm. When I walk in, they put down whatever they're doing and almost immediately give me their attention. And they don't send me running around on wild goose chases throughout the building, playing civil-servant hot potato with me.
It's quite refreshing.
On a somewhat more ridiculously annoying note, I got back into contact with the stupidly incompetent insurance company that I ranted about previously so I could get the ball rolling on getting a whole new set of quotes to insure the new space.
And, of course, they did not disappoint. I had already informed them that our last deal was dead, and then when I called and left a voicemail, I informed the woman that I wanted her to start getting quotes for the new space.
When she called me back, I was watching Henry bounce around the Kohl Children's Museum, so it seemed like an ok time to talk.
The first five minutes or so of the conversation was spent reiterating the stuff I already told her in my voicemail. I hate people that do this. Isn't' that the whole point of voicemail? Do you really have to go through the whole thing sentence-by-sentence and confirm what I just said?
"So you want me to get quotes for your restaurant in a new space?"
"And this space is located in Evanston?"
GIVE ME A BREAK, LADY!
Then she launches into this surreal "who's on first" type thing that I'm still trying to make sense of. She asked me about the last space (Lincoln Square) that we got quotes on and again confirmed that we weren't opening a restaurant in that space.
"Yep. That's correct," I said.
"But now you're buying a different restaurant?"
"Yep. In Evanston."
"But is it the same restaurant?" she asked.
"Uh....well, we're opening the same restaurant we were planning to open in Lincoln Square, but we're buying a different restaurant from a different restaurant owner and leasing the space from a different landlord. Does that answer your question?"
"Oh. Well, but, it's the same restaurant, right?"
"No. Same as what? I don't understand what you're asking me."
"The equipment, the square footage, the type of building...all that is the same?"
I'm somewhat incredulous now. Plus, Henry is using a grease pencil to paint cat whiskers on an unsteady toddler. "Of course not," I said.
"How could it be all the same?"--I'm trying to keep my voice low at this point-- "It's a different restaurant. In a different city. The building is different, the square footage is different, the location is different, the equipment is different. Everything's different. Do you understand?"
"Oh," she says. "So you're buying a different restaurant from a different seller?"
"Yes". (Do we not understand the meaning of the fucking word "different"??)
"And you want to get quotes on this new, different space?"
"Well, we'll need to get all new information from you--details on the building, the address, the fire suppression system...everything."
"Yep. I know. That's why I called. To begin that process."
"Oh, ok, well I'll need to get back to you another time when I'm prepared to take all that information from you."
Arrrrrgh. It's seriously time to get a different insurance company. Why do I even bother with these people?