BYOF -- bring your own food -- could be on its way to Wheeling.
That concept for Beer House -- featuring 500 different craft and specialty beers in bottles and 60 on tap combined with live entertainment -- received enthusiastic support Monday from the Wheeling Village Board.
The outlot of the Westin hotel on Milwaukee Avenue seems like the right spot at the right time. The tavern could bring more business to Wheeling's famed Restaurant Row and arrives when almost everyone has a cellphone available to order "carry in" food. And of course, many people flock to places serving craft beers.
The tavern provides menus for restaurants willing to deliver food at no extra cost, and each customer makes the call, said Joe Romeo, who is an owner of a Beer House that recently opened in Lombard. The food is delivered right to the table, and the tavern's staff is ready to recommend beer pairings. Patrons could also stop and get food on their way to the tavern or bring items from home.
The small Wheeling shopping center "at the gateway into the Westin" was built in 2006 at the same time as the hotel to avoid marring the site with construction after the hotel opened, said John Melaniphy, Wheeling's director of economic development. However, only two businesses ever rented in the building, with one remaining, he said.
One challenge is the long list of "prohibited" uses under the redevelopment agreement with the village because at that time -- right before the economic bust -- officials were hoping to attract high-end retail, said Melaniphy.
The prohibitions include "taverns," but the village board can waive the prohibition and allow such a use at any time.
Monday's "concept review" was designed to give business owners an idea where their project stands with the village board before they invest in the engineering and legal studies needed to begin the official approval process.
While Melaniphy thinks it is time to allow some of the "prohibited" businesses to fill the long-vacant building, he said each applicant should be judged separately rather than asking the board to make a wholesale change on the list.
Beer House will use 3,600 square feet in the center, leaving about 4,000 square feet still available.
"It will be complementary to the restaurants (in the area) as well as the hotel," said Melaniphy, "and it also creates some night life for people. And it will be a catalyst for additional retail facilities to take up the balance of the vacant space."
Romeo and his partners own a Beer House in Lombard. And the business is similar to the Beer Market in Vernon Hills. Romeo said he was in on the beginning of that tavern but later sold his shares.
"We are excited to move into Wheeling," he said, adding that the owners would like to expand in other "great locations."