Chicago’s proliferation of high-end cocktail bars is creeping over the border into Evanston with the establishment of Ward Eight, a cocktail lounge and small plates restaurant planned for Howard Street.
On Tuesday night, the city council unanimously approved a liquor license for the venture, which will open at 629 Howard Street sometime in the next several months. Owners Anne Carlson and Cody Modeer still have to obtain a license from the state of Illinois, a process that can take up to three months, according to eighth ward Alderman Ann Rainey.
Carlson and Modeer, both of whom worked at In Fine Spirits in Andersonville, will live above the restaurant. They are leasing the restaurant and residential space from the city, which owns the building. According to the lease drawn up by the city, Ward Eight will pay no rent during its first year, then $2,000 a month beginning the second year. The business has the option to buy the building from the city after three years, and will be credited rent paid.
The city agreed to other incentives for the restaurateurs, who have chosen to locate in an area demarcated for tax increment financing. In February, council members voted to spend up to $100,000 in tax increment financing for improvements to the building. The city also agreed to loan Ward Eight $130,000 toward setup costs as part of a Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Speaking at the end of Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Rainey defended the incentives granted to Ward Eight.
“There is a falsehood being repeated over and over, and sometimes I fear that if you hear things enough times, you begin to believe them,” she said. “There is no giveaway at 629 Howard Street.”
Rainey noted that the owners are expected to pay back the loan for renovation of the wine bar, and added that they have signed a lease to rent to own.
“This is not a giveaway,” she emphasized.
According to the owners’ application for a liquor license, Ward Eight will seat 40 people at nine tables and serve alcohol from 5 p.m. to midnight seven days a week. A tentative menu includes classic drinks like the gimlet, Moscow Mule and Old Fashioned, as well as new creations like the Bergamot, composed of Earl Grey Death’s Door gin, Maraschino cherries, Crème Yvette and lemon bitters.