Plans for a new food hall, taproom and event space in downtown Elgin are moving forward, and city officials say they are mindful of preventing problems neighbors had with a former bar at that location.
Dream Hall at 51 S. Grove Ave. would host rotating food vendors, initially three of them, serving a variety of food from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The taproom would serve craft beer, wine, spirits and nonalcoholic beverages such as organic sodas from 2 to 10 p.m. weekdays and noon to 10 p.m. weekends.
Owner Kevin Echevarria said he hopes to obtain a liquor license in January or February. City council members -- they also serve on the liquor control commission -- had positive comments Wednesday when they preliminarily approved zoning for the project.
"I am looking forward to this. It's a really unique concept," Councilwoman Tish Powell said. "We are really pleased and excited that you are continuing to expand here in Elgin, your hometown."
The building previously held the Smooth Fox bar, whose owner let its liquor license expire in May and was evicted in June for failure to pay rent. The bar had a tumultuous year in business, with numerous police calls about noise, fights and an incident of shots fired. Neighbors repeatedly complained, and city officials said any future bar at that location would be under increased scrutiny.
Community Development Marc Mylott said staff members and Echevarria "talked candidly about some of the problems that some operators had."
Echevarria would be prohibited from using the building as a night club or entertainment venue, and parties held there could not charge cover or advertise. The same conditions apply to two similar venues downtown, The Haight and Frida's Party Room, Mylott said.
"We don't have to operate as a music hall venue. That's just not in our plan," Echevarria said.
Councilman Toby Shaw said he wanted to reassure neighbors. "We heard you very loud and clear about some of the challenges of the past," he said. "We are excited about the opportunity with this new owner."
Echevarria said the three-story building would host social gatherings, pop-up events such as cooking classes, creative workshops and private parties, and the headquarters of his Elgin-based umbrella business, PKE Enterprises.
The food vendors for the food hall would come from Shared Dream Kitchen, a commercial shared kitchen with locations in Elgin, Lake in the Hills and Schaumburg, also part of PKE Enterprises.
The building also will be home to Dream Hub, a new countywide food hub run by Echevarria under a contract approved in November by the Kane County Board. The hub will be a place for local farmers to deliver products to be distributed to local consumers including restaurants and school districts.