Shortages stall new restaurants in downtown Antioch
Dining restrictions have eased, but the owners of two new restaurants who had hoped to be welcoming customers in downtown Antioch aren't yet celebrating as they continue to grapple with a pandemic paradox.
Equipment and material shortages, eye-popping cost increases and other factors have created a challenging environment and resulted in lengthy delays for projects across the country and on Antioch's Main Street.
"It's really complicating everything," said Michael Garrigan, the village's community development director.
So, instead of enjoying the open-air vibe at Station 51 or a brew on the rooftop patio at Rivalry Alehouse, potential customers and the anxious and frustrated owners will have to wait.
"Everything has taken longer and become more expensive," said Jimmy Donohoe, a partner in Rivalry Alehouse. "It's not conducive to getting things done quick and economically."
Village officials approved the Rivalry concept in spring 2018. But design changes, financing issues and other factors arose, and the ceremonial groundbreaking wasn't held until January 2020. At the time, construction was expected to be done by fall.
But the pandemic and its ripple effects intervened.
Indeed, the initial budget to add a second story and gut and transform an eyesore property at the village's southern gateway on Main Street and Lake Street has jumped from $1.8 million to $2.3 million.
Equipment on back order for two months is supposed to be delivered today. An elevator ordered in January is scheduled to arrive July 6 and will take a week to install.
"The supply chain is not what it was," Donohoe added.
"I'm not an excuse guy, but these are facts."
Another pressing issue is finding, hiring and training staff. While the work is 90% complete, a planned grand opening in late July has an asterisk.
And the meter continues to run on expenses including the construction loan, utilities and property taxes.
"It's costing $15,000 a month to not be open," said Jerry Johnson, another partner and the building owner. "Nobody wants to open more than me, but it's a process."
About a block north at 883 Main St., construction fencing hides the front facade at Station 51, a venture of restaurateur Kris Schoenberger. The goal had been to open in April or May, he said.
"We can't get anything from anybody. We ordered brick in January, and it just came in last week," said Schoenberger, who runs BBQ'd Productions in Third Lake, Lake Zurich and Kenosha.
"There were a couple of weeks we couldn't get the plywood we needed."
The project involves remaking the exterior of the building, which dates to the early 1900s. A main element is three bays outfitted with overhead doors that can be opened in summer.
Schoenberger said the doors were ordered in February but aren't expected to be delivered until the end of September. Interior work has progressed, but Schoenberger is uncertain when he'll open. His estimated project costs have tripled.
"We're moving forward; it's just at a slower pace," he said. "The pandemic is crippling every single industry."
The village has a stake in the success of Rivalry and Station 51 as it tries to improve the look, atmosphere and vibrancy in its traditional downtown.
"Obviously, the success of both those places is vital to what I envision the downtown becoming," said Mayor Scott Gartner, who ousted 12-year incumbent Larry Hanson in the April election.
Johnson, a village trustee for eight years, also lost a reelection bid in April.
During the campaign, Gartner said Antioch needed a base to entice people to visit and businesses to become a part of the downtown district.
Various programs, like facade improvement grants and performance based incentives, were in place before Gartner took office.
Rivalry, for example, received $200,000 toward equipment, and the village is contributing $100,000 for the Station 51 facade.
Elsewhere downtown, the long-standing Vegas Cafe is receiving about $35,000 to restore the facade of the building said to be home of Antioch's first bank. The first floor is complete, but replacement windows to fill the original openings on the second floor are on back order.
Interest in the program is increasing, according to Garrigan.
"One building at a time," he said. "I think it's been a success to be getting some of these buildings restored."
Schoenberger said he is excited about ongoing downtown projects.
"It's going to be a good place to hang out," he said.
The upper front deck at Rivalry provides views down Lake and Main streets.
"There's definitely a transformation going on," Donohoe said.
"You can feel it walking down Main Street."