If Wishes Were Restaurants, All Beggars Would Dine (Updated)


Tomorrow night (02.27.18) the City of Park Ridge Planning & Zoning Commission (“P&Z”) will hold a public hearing, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, on whether the owner of the Pickwick Theater Building – Pickwick Enterprises, LLC, reportedly owned by the Vlahakis Family – will be given a “special use” allowing a lease of the former Pickwick Restaurant (also f/k/a “The Pick”) for a Pearle Vision franchise.

We think an eye-care center would be a serious misuse of that space. But that’s beside the point.

What’s most important is whether enough evidence – not mere opinion but actual facts – will be presented at Tuesday night’s hearing to convince a majority of the P&Z commissioners that:

1. The establishment, maintenance and operation of the special use in the specific location proposed will not endanger the public health, safety or general welfare of any portion of the community;

2. The proposed special use is compatible with adjacent properties and other property within the immediate vicinity of the special use; and

3. The special use in the specific location proposed is consistent with the spirit and intent of the Zoning Ordinance and the Comprehensive Plan.

Those are the points Pearle Vision and/or the landlord need to prove in order for P&Z to approve the special use.

Point 1 is a virtual given, and a finding on Point 2 also seems likely.

Where a Pearle Vision franchise is most vulnerable, however, appears to be on Point 3, given that the “spirit and intent” of the 1996 Comprehensive Plan is to support uses that will strengthen retail, restaurant and entertainment activities in that area.

FYI: A Pearle Vision franchise reportedly is considered a “service” business rather than a “retail” one. And we don’t see how a Pearle Vision franchise, or any eye care facility, will strengthen the area’s retail, restaurant or entertainment features.

But we also can’t ignore the fact that the last two restaurants in that space have failed; and the space has been vacant since July 2017, after the latest restaurant failed in less than a year.

Does that mean that a restaurant can’t succeed there? We can’t say.

The apparent lack of restaurateurs lining up to lease the space, however, suggests that maybe such a space poses more challenges than the folks carping from the cheap seats think when they question why it can’t house a Gibson’s, a Hackney’s, a Bobby’s Deerfield, a Rick Bayless or Lettuce restaurant, some un-named chain restaurant, an ice cream shop, a bar, a coffee co-op, a bakery, a brewery, an art school, some unidentified “small” or “mom and pop” businesses, or some unidentified “destination.”

Not surprisingly, the folks with all those swell ideas don’t seem to have two nickels to rub together. Or maybe they just don’t want to risk those nickels to turn those ideas into reality.

As the old saying might go in this situation: “If wishes were restaurants, all beggars would dine.”

We suspect that if any of the folks running their mouths had been willing to sign the same kind of lease as the Pearle Vision franchisee, the Vlahakis Family would have accepted it.

But like so many folks who prefer to watch the spending of Other People’s Money (“OPM”) rather than spend their own, the idea folks didn’t. And so the Vlahakis Family had to choose between a Pearle Vision and a whole lot of empty in the most prominent storefront in town.

And how did the all-talk-no-cash folks respond? Some of them chose to rip the Vlahakis Family for being…wait for it…“greedy” because they chose a real live tenant over leaving the space empty in the hope that a dream tenant might materialize.

Worse yet, one of the loudest carpers, Dena Lucy, went so far as to suggest (over this past weekend, as a comment to Terry Flynn’s 02.11.2018 post on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page) that a decision by P&Z in favor of Pearle would be the product of some unspecified “corruption.”

Over the years we have disagreed with some P&Z decisions, occasionally with vigor. But we have never seen any evidence of what could reasonably be viewed as “corruption” – just different viewpoints and philosophies of government.

So we hope Ms. Lucy will show up tomorrow night and provide exquisite details of her “corruption” charge at the beginning of the hearing, so that everyone watching those proceedings can be on the lookout for the “fix” and who’s involved in it

But don’t bet on her doing so. Even in a political cesspool like Illinois, it’s a lot easier to claim “corruption” than to prove it.

Updated 02.28.2017. Last night the P&Z denied a somewhat half-hearted effort by the Pickwick’s landlord and a Pearle Vision franchisee to get a special use permit to run an optical service business out of a space intended for restaurant/retail/entertainment. Apparently the “corruption” that was supposed to swing this deal for the Pearle franchisee and the “greedy” Vlahakis family never materialized.


Should the permit-seekers wish to pursue the matter, their next stop would be an appeal of the P&Z decision to the City Council. From the look and sound of things, however, that doesn’t seem all that likely.

So now we look forward to those unidentified restaurateurs – who allegedly want the space but were beaten to the punch by the Pearle Vision franchisee – coming forward with whatever grand plan(s) they have for that restaurant space.

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