Longtime Elk Grove pizzeria wants ‘fair’ deal in buyout talks with village

The longtime owner of an Elk Grove Village pizzeria was caught off guard when she learned village officials were buying the building where she rents space, with plans to redevelop the site.

But they’re now in negotiations over a buyout of her lease, and it’s possible the restaurant may relocate in town.

Munchies Pizza & Bar has been serving pizza, pasta and sandwiches since 1983 at Turner Avenue and Arlington Heights Road, just a block north of the Devon Avenue border with Itasca.

But the new owner of the building at 25 Turner Ave. — the fifth landlord since Munchies has been there — told village officials earlier this year the building was for sale for redevelopment because of the costly repairs needed.

The village board on Dec. 12 inked a $700,000 purchase agreement with the Mundelein-based seller Sanjay Jethva for the 57,713-square-foot property. Later that weekend, Mayor Craig Johnson went to inform two of the three remaining businesses in the building and talk about potential relocation cost assistance: The Mixx Hair Salon and Turner Liquors, but not Munchies.

Trustee Jeff Franke, a longtime patron of Munchies, was supposed to break the news to restaurant owner Marie Altobello on Dec. 18, but word had already spread after Johnson visited the hair salon and liquor store two days earlier. Altobello called the mayor upset that afternoon.

Johnson apologized for the miscommunication, and they’ve since been talking about a lease buyout.

But during the same time, Altobello has been peppered with questions from customers about the future of the business, fueled by conversation and speculation on social media.

“This current situation has been very unfortunate, and I did not bring this upon myself. I have enjoyed doing business in Elk Grove the last 40 years,” Altobello wrote in a statement read by her son-in-law at this week’s village board meeting. “My hope is that Mayor Johnson and I can come to a reasonable resolution and that we can be fairly compensated in recognition of our lease.”

Ideally, it's her wish to move somewhere within the village and be able to pay a monthly rent similar to the $4,000 she’s paying today, she said.

Johnson says he has an agreement worked out with Altobello in principle, but he hasn’t yet agreed to her requested dollar amount, pending the final costs to buy out or relocate the other two businesses, who have longer lease terms.

Altobello said her lease runs through May 31, 2031, but Johnson and Franke dispute that, since she’s been signing her rent checks with the memo “month to month” and never formally signed lease extensions.

That’s because her requests of multiple landlords to repair the building and parking lot have gone unanswered, said Tina Altobello Jaglowicz, the owner’s daughter.

Altobello Jaglowicz and the mayor engaged in a heated back-and-forth at the board meeting Tuesday night, each questioning the accuracy of statements they’ve made publicly and on Facebook.

Johnson said the village is taking an active role in redevelopment of the old retail area — it also bought offices at 60 and 70 Turner Ave. for $350,000 — so officials can “drive the bus” on desired uses there.

“If someone else bought that location, all they have to do is close and give Marie 30 days notice and she’s done. No moving costs, no buyouts, no nothing. We’re not doing that. We’re doing the opposite,” he said.

Altobello Jaglowicz said her mother wants to remain in business, even if that’s somewhere else in town.

“I love Elk Grove,” she said. “I just want my mother and my family who have literally busted their (butts) for 40 years to get what they have coming fair.”

The village is in the middle of a 90-day due diligence period to negotiate lease termination agreements and do environmental tests before a closing.

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