This letter is in response to the Evanston Economic Development Committee’s approval of a proposal to lease the Arrington Lagoon Beach Shelter for use as a private restaurant and bar, which was reported in this Roundtable article.

It is the long-held mission of the Southeast Evanston Association to staunchly protect the lakefront from private development, so that it remain an unspoiled and peaceful respite from urbanity, a space for passive enjoyment of an non-commercialized Lakefront.

We are skeptical, that even in the event that a truly responsible tenant is chosen, the character of Evanston’s lakefront would be damaged. Drawing diners and patrons of adult beverages away from our struggling downtown establishments toward the lakefront will also exacerbate existing problems in both spaces.

We are concerned that the increased traffic from vendors and patrons would hinder the passive enjoyment of the Lakefront around the lagoon. The inevitable odors of food preparation and waste would taint the area, where current litter management is already a significant issue.

That is to say nothing of how the consumption of alcoholic beverages along the lakefront would affect the character of the environs.

While we recognize the need for expanded opportunities for small business owners, and the additional tax dollars that such development brings, we do not believe that commercializing the lakefront is the correct answer.

Like many Evanstonians, we are concerned about the many dining and drinking establishments that have not survived the COVID-19 pandemic and are grateful that the Council continues to look for ways for Evanston to be a thriving location for business.

However, to do so at the lagoon both ignores the needs of downtown while also eroding the integrity of our lakefront – one of our greatest assets.

Evanston, and indeed Chicagoland broadly, has a storied tradition of limiting private development along its lakefront. The Southeast Evanston Association urges the Council to continue that tradition and reject further commercialization of Evanston’s lakefront.


The Southeast Evanston Association Board

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  1. Will the wealthy property owners win this fight? I hope not. They have controlled lakefront access forever. Keep your eyes on the Evanston City Council. If they over rule this decision then it’s more confirmation that the very few and wealthy control the local government. I have always said that we out number the wealthy, and we can make Evanston a community for all who live here when we decide to do so.

  2. When will we ever learn. I agree totally with your commitment to keep the lakefront as pure as we can. I have lived in Evanston for 53 years and I’ve always cherish that we have the Lakefront. I am 86 and no longer go to the Lakefront but I cherish it anyway as a traditional part of Evanston. Thank you for your letter to the editor.

  3. I can’t say I fully agree. These are valid concerns; however, I’d say it’s worth a try for a season and could be evaluated before committing to a future cafe use on that site. I kind of like the idea, as long as it’s low-key and trash is appropriately managed.

  4. Visit the beautiful parks in Stockholm or Copenhagen and you will find a few nice places to sit down and enjoy a drink or a meal. If these social democratic cities can find a way to allow private businesses to operate in public spaces, then why can’t we?
    Please spare us the slippery slope arguments.

  5. It should be noted that the position articulated on the “Letter to the Editor” attributed to the Southeast Evanston Association Board that appeared in the May 30, 2022, issue of the Roundtable was predicted on a 4-3 vote of the seven voting members of the SEA Board. Nor was that letter, in the language and tone which appeared in the May 30 issue, ever before the full SEA Board for consideration before it was submitted to the Roundtable. The minority of the voting members of the Board in fact favored the effort of the Evanston Economic Development Committee to bring coffee in the morning, a wine cafe in the evening, and “light fare” foods to the Arrington Lagoon building, all as previously reported by the Roundtable.