Palatine council wants to work with restaurant's igloo plan

  • Gianni's Cafe in Palatine wants to install four igloos on the public sidewalk along the building on Station Street, in addition to these two on the patio.

      Gianni's Cafe in Palatine wants to install four igloos on the public sidewalk along the building on Station Street, in addition to these two on the patio. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Posted11/17/2020 5:30 AM

The village of Palatine is looking to allow a downtown restaurant to use a public sidewalk to install "igloo" pods for winter dining, pending a reasonable cost assessment for sidewalk accommodations.

Mike and Christine Siena, owners of Gianni's Cafe at 18 W. Station St., said they were elated the village council was supportive of their request. The couple installed two igloos last week on the restaurant's patio and want to install four more on the sidewalk south of the building, along Station Street.


"We are really, really, really pleased with how supportive they are," Christine Siena said after the village council meeting Monday night.

"We are hoping this will be a draw to the downtown area. Those igloos really provide that kind of 'wow' experience," Mike Siena said.

The Sienas also had presented two lesser options to the village for winter outdoor dining: installing igloos on the parking spots on Station Street, alongside the railroad tracks, and installing outdoor tents on the public sidewalk.

Village Manager Reid Ottesen told the council that the village's lease with Union Pacific doesn't allow occupying parking spots with structures long term. Having tents on the sidewalk was the option preferred by the village staff to maintain maximum safety and ease of snow removal, plus limit liability issues, Ottesen said.

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The village council, however, wanted to accommodate the restaurant's preferred plan.

"As much as we like the tent idea so we have room for pedestrians, it's just going to restrict them so much," Councilman Brad Helms said.

Councilman Kollin Kozlowski said, "This is hard times," referring to COVID-19.

Before the plan can be executed, the village will figure out the cost of installing concrete barriers to create a temporary pedestrian way on the street. Mike Siena said he's willing to take on some or all of the cost, based on the final price tag.

That portion of Station Street might become a temporary one-way street. Ottesen said he will consult with the public works staff and talk with nearby property owners, including businesses and The Providence condo building.

The Sienas said they are optimistic the details will be worked out with the village so they can install the additional igloos. If not, their backup plan will be to install tents or possibly "garden houses" on the sidewalk, they said.


The Sienas also own Gianni's Cafe in Kildeer, where they installed seven igloos on the patio.

Christine Siena said the feedback has been positive from employees -- who can continue working during the ban on indoor dining -- and from patrons. "It's fun, it's a unique experience, and they (patrons) feel very safe, we are told. And warm," she said.

The igloos have heaters and air purification at an overall cost of up to $2,200 each. The couple tested one for months in their backyard to ensure everything worked properly, she said.

"We have honestly put in a lot of time and reason into this," Christine Siena said. "It's pretty exciting, even beyond COVID-19, that we have another option for people to be able to extend outdoor dining from summer into fall."

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