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updated: 5/22/2012 5:26 AM

Pal Joey's to fill downtown Batavia restaurant spot

Restaurant opts for 2nd site in Batavia

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  • Pal Joey's plans to open a second restaurant, in the space at 31 N. River St. in Batavia formerly occupied by Venice Tavern and Fox's on the River.

      Pal Joey's plans to open a second restaurant, in the space at 31 N. River St. in Batavia formerly occupied by Venice Tavern and Fox's on the River.
    Daily Herald file photo


Batavia is extending $100,000 in incentives to get Pal Joey's to open a restaurant downtown.

The city council Monday awarded the restaurant a $25,000 Downtown Improvement Grant. And it agreed to loan the business $75,000 in a five-year loan to be repaid with 3.5 percent annual interest.

Both measures passed unanimously, 13-0, with no questions and with Alderman Garran Sparks absent.

The grant and the loan come out of the Tax Increment Financing District 1 fund. Property taxes collected for that fund come from downtown properties and are to be used for projects that improve the health of the downtown in that district.

Pal Joey's plans to open in mid- to late June at 31 N. River St. The restaurant owner had told the city that the space needed $236,000 in remodeling to meet its business standards.

The space has been redecorated or renovated twice since 2008, first when Shawn Michael's Bistro opened there in 2008, then when Fox's on the River moved in, in 2009.

Shawn Michael's Bistro was open for about a month; Fox's was there almost two years.

"This has joined the Golden Corral as kind of the $64 question for the mayor: 'When is Pal Joey's going to open?'" Mayor Jeff Schielke said.

After the vote, when restaurant co-owner John Hamel was invited to make a presentation about the restaurant, Alderman Lisa Clark asked what work was going to be done. Hamel said they would redesign the interior bar and make improvements to the patio and the outside bar.

Hamel, an avid bicyclist, said he rode nearly daily past the restaurant space on the Fox River Trail, thinking, "I'd like to put a Pal Joey's there."

Schielke said his high school reunion committee has already booked a banquet there for mid-July.

Alderman Dave Brown said Pal Joey's will be a "nice anchor" for a fixed-up North River Street. The city is remodeling the streetscape to increase foot traffic, which it hopes will draw businesses such as restaurants to the block.

Brown is chairman of the community development committee, which normally reviews applications for such grants and loans at a meeting of its own. Because the restaurant wants to open in June, the committee members were instead individually polled by staff to see if they favored just considering it at a council meeting.

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