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The demise of the downtown Burger King during the pandemic did not go unnoticed, triggering reminiscences from a number of community members over the loss of the restaurant, one of the few 24-hour places open in all of Evanston.
Early Disapproval of a Fast-Food Restaurant
The restaurant, 1740 Orrington Ave., had an air of disapproval hanging over it in its early years, after sneaking by the City prohibition against franchises with the applicants using the franchisee name Chart House Inc., to get in the door and bagging their orders themselves.
For years afterward, Evanston officials required patrons to get their disposal plates and utensils at a separate serving station because of the restaurant’s early indiscretion.
At the Jan. 27 City Economic Development Committee meeting, though, officials acknowledged the loss of the restaurant, responding to a student’s concerns about the loss of 24-hour eateries.
Addressing the Committee, Northwestern University student Jacob Brown said he was encouraged to approach the group with his concerns after talking to some EDC members individually, singling out Second Ward Alderman Peter Braithwaite and Fourth Ward Alderman Donald Wilson.
He acknowledged that Evanston is “not necessarily a college town in the way that you think of the fact that there are a lot of bars and like crazy clubs and nightlife, and I think that’s part of the appeal of Evanston [and] Northwestern in general.”
“But I do think that something that Northwestern students do have demand for — or at least claim to have demand for, is more late night options,” he said.
“I feel that – and I think a lot of other Northwestern students feel that – there are not a lot of cheap options,” he said. “I think in the eyes of the students, it’s due to some old arcane laws in the city of Evanston.”
He said he had researched the question and had even chatted with Mayor Stephen Hagerty, who pointed out the presence of Insomnia Cookies, at 1725 Sherman Ave., as an example of a late-night establishment.
He told the Committee, “It seems, especially with Burger King leaving, McDonald’s [formerly located 703 Church St., now Farmhouse Evanston’s space] not doing well enough to stay – it seems that the demand is not actually there to keep these places open enough.
NU-City Cooperation on Late-Night Food?
“So my question is, ‘What ways could the Northwestern community work with the Evanston City Council and Economic Development Committee?’ and also the other way: Could the Evanston Economic Development Committee work with the community of Northwestern to sort of come to the same page about what the demand is and then work to meet this demand?”
Ald. Wilson, for one, said the student had made a great point, suggesting the City and the Northwestern community connect over the issue.
“I think it’s a great opportunity at this time to kind of open that dialogue and see if there are some ways to,” he said. “We’re obviously not going to answer it tonight, but I think it’s an ongoing conversation.”
Leading into the discussion, the alderman admitted to sometimes stopping by Burger King or Taco Bell, when Council meetings ran late into the evening.
“There’s really not much in the way of dining options or places to go later at night,” he said. “You’ve got students, people who are working late, coming home late, or leaving a shift, and there just really aren’t many options for that.”
Inviting Mr. Brown to the meeting, he said, “I wanted this to be on our radar, as far as what the downtown experience looks like.”
“Certainly, we don’t want people, you know, banging on pots and pans at 2 in the morning,” he said. “But it would be good if we had something more than cookies available for pickup later at night.”