Cheeseburger in Paradise, a prominent tenant in Des Plaines' Metropolitan Square, has closed its doors after five years.
Workers took down the sign for the Jimmy Buffett-themed restaurant at 1472 Market St. Monday morning, and its nearly 100 employees have been sent home, said managing partner Tom Fremarek.
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"We really enjoyed being there, but financially it just didn't work out for us," Fremarek said. "We had almost 100 employees. They were all like my daughters. Most of the girls, this was their first job. It was very hard. We had so many regulars ... we loved the community."
Fremarek said the eatery's parent company, a national chain of 35 restaurants, has been struggling with this decision for quite some time.
He told another media outlet that the eatery could not keep up with rising rents over the last two years.
When asked whether the closure was a sign of the economy or rising rents, Fremarek said "nine businesses have gone down in Metropolitan Square in the last four years."
Metropolitan Square's present occupancy rate is just under 80 percent, according to the property managers. The shopping center is anchored by Shop-N-Save, which covers a third of the total square footage.
Mike Neises, Metropolitan Square property manager, said Monday his management company remains in negotiations with Cheeseburger in Paradise over rent and other issues.
Neises said the reason tenants' rents have gone up over the past few years is because Cook County raised property tax assessments.
"If the taxes in Cook County double, that has to be passed down as a cost to every consumer that goes into those stores," Neises said. "The taxes at Metropolitan Square get passed on to the tenants."
Neises said annual property taxes for Metropolitan Square went up from $416,000 in 2006 to $600,000 in 2007, and then $800,000 in 2008.
"This year (2010) they would have gone up to over $900,000, but we appealed them so it's gone back down to $600,000," he added. "We've given reductions to tenants. Last year, we gave a reduction to Cheeseburger in Paradise to help them purchase TVs so they can create more of a sports bar atmosphere."
Fremarek said it seemed unlikely that the Des Plaines restaurant would reopen. Employees were given the choice of relocating to Cheeseburger in Paradise's two other suburban locations, in Downers Grove and Algonquin. A few employees already have taken that option, including him, he said.