Niles OKs $1.2 million TIF for James Beard award winner Jimmy Bannos Jr. to open restaurant

The Niles Village Board has approved $1.2 million in tax increment financing for award-winning restaurateur Jimmy Bannos Jr. to open a Greek eatery at the current location of Amici Ristorante.

Bannos, who owns the Purple Pig Restaurant on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, was a co-winner of the 2014 Rising Star award at the James Beard awards, the pinnacle of honors for fine dining, according to earlier Chicago Tribune reporting. At its Feb. 27 meeting, the Village Board approved a redevelopment agreement with Bannos for the 7620 N. Milwaukee Avenue property, where Bannos will invest $1 million of his money to redevelop the site into what village documents say will be a modern Greek eatery.

Niles Mayor George Alpogianis, a restaurateur himself, said he knows Bannos from being in the same circles in the restaurant community and was aware that Bannos was looking to build a restaurant in the suburbs. Alpogianis said he encouraged Bannos to speak with the village’s economic development director, John Melaniphy.

Alpogianis said he isn’t involved with any incentives Melaniphy or Community Development Director Christine Raguso offered Bannos, but did confirm that Melaniphy offered Bannos the tax increment financing incentive the Village Board passed.

Bannos submitted documents to the village stating he expects the restaurant to do $4.5 million in annual sales and contribute $450,000 in sales tax revenue and $35,000 in property tax revenue.

The tax increment financing that Bannos could receive is in a “pay-as-you-go” plan, meaning that once tax assessors reassess the property taxes at the site at higher worth, Bannos would be eligible to receive up to $1.2 million back in property taxes, which are frozen when a tax increment financing zone is set up and expires when they are dissolved. According to Illinois law, a tax increment financing zone lasts up to 23 years.

Previously, the village also approved up to $1.6 million in TIF funds for an incoming Crosby’s Kitchen restaurant at Touhy Avenue and Caldwell, and up to $96 million in TIF funds for the Golf Mill Shopping Center redevelopment.

According to the redevelopment agreement, Bannos will spend $1 million on the building’s interior and exterior. The redevelopment agreement said Koukla would leverage Jimmy Bannos’s experience at the Purple Pig Restaurant.

Bannos did not respond to requests for comment from Pioneer Press.

Alpogianis said Amici’s owners were nearing retirement age and were looking to get on with their lives.

“Amici, for a long time, was one of our most revered restaurants,” he said.

Alpogianis said Amici’s building is “dated,” but to his knowledge, did not need extensive repairs to its plumbing or electrical system, and he said that Koukla will be able to keep using the same the building Amici uses but will integrate updates for its new theme.

Bannos’ TIF application states the remodel will include interior demolition, frame, drywall, ceilings, HVAC and hoods, plumbing, electrical, lighting, fire alarm, trim, millwork, cabinetry, painting, flooring, furniture, bar and kitchen equipment, A/V, exterior facade remodel, paint, storefront windows, doors and signage.

When asked why Bannos would need to apply for $1.2 million TIF funds, considering that his reputation precedes him, Alpogianis said, “Everyone asks for TIF money if they’re in a TIF district… Anyone that builds in a TIF district is always asking for money. This isn’t something new, (and) it happens all the time.”