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Aurora approves agreement for downtown restaurant

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The Aurora City Council on Tuesday night approved a redevelopment agreement to bring a new Italian restaurant to downtown.

Aldermen approved a total $827,094 incentive to St. Charles-based Frontier Development, LLC, in partnership with a restaurant group owned by Chris and Megan Curren, for the restaurant in the 3,200-square-foot building at 7 S. Broadway.

The incentive will be in the form of a $413,547 grant, and another $413,547 forgivable loan. Under the terms of the agreement, the restaurant partnership would pay the rest of the estimated $1.65 million it will take to renovate the building.

The partnership also is paying $100,000 to buy the building from the city.

The council’s vote to approve the agreement was 11-1, with Ald. John Laesch, at large, the sole vote against the deal, after failing in an attempt to amend the agreement.

Laesch’s amendment was to force the restaurant to pay a minimum of $17.40 an hour for all employees, and to maintain a standard health insurance plan.

The company had provided aldermen with information about its pay and health insurance plan. It said it would pay employees between $16 and $20 an hour, and provide a good, standard health plan.

But Laesch said he proposed the amendment because the city is giving a lot of assistance, and “Aurora should get something back.” He praised the restaurant owners for their plans, but said by “codifying” it in writing it would “hold them to it.”

Ald. Edward Bugg, 9th Ward, seconded the amendment, saying it was good to have a discussion about the issue, although he eventually voted against the amendment, which failed in an 11-1 vote, and voted for the overall agreement.

Alds. Patty Smith, 8th Ward; Carl Franco, 5th Ward; and Ron Woerman, at large, criticized Laesch for his amendment, saying it was far beyond the city’s scope of responsibility to regulate what a business pays.

Franco said philosophically, Laesch’s suggestion was “a socialist agenda,” and said enforcing such a thing was “anti-business,” and would “be the death knell to the future of business coming to Aurora.”

Woerman, a restaurant owner and operator, said it would hurt any restaurant to “dabble in their day to day” operations.

Mayor Richard Irvin called Laesch’s amendment “ludicrous,” and said the city already will get a lot out of the development in the form of increased sales, food and beverage and property taxes. He added the city benefits by the additional interest and foot traffic the restaurant will generate downtown.

“What do we get if we do what you want us to do? We get nothing,” Irvin said.

The osteria planned by the Currens will feature pasta made on site, wood fired pizza and use of the adjoining Skinny Park for outdoor dining.

David Dibo, the city’s economic development director, said the restaurant is estimated to generate about $1.5 million in receipts a year, also paying sales taxes and the city’s food and beverage tax.

That would generate $60,000 to $70,000 a year in those taxes, he said. That should pay the city’s loan back within six years, but Dibo said if there is not enough to pay the city back within eight years, the developers would agree to make up the difference.

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