Nostalgic Wheeling trustees agreed Monday night to spend up to $70,000 of tax increment financing district money to demolish the building that housed the iconic Don Roth's Blackhawk restaurant.
The restaurant, one of the original features on Wheeling's famed Restaurant Row, closed in 2009 after 40 years on Milwaukee Avenue just north of Dundee Road.
Village President Dean Argiris, who said he believes in making developable properties "shovel ready," asked for a consensus from the board, but Trustees Bill Hein and Ray Lang said "no" to sharing the demolition costs. The total would be an estimated $110,000 plus perhaps $10,000 to remove the foundation, which is probably brick or field stone, said officials. The building was originally a farmhouse dating from the 1880s.
Doug Roth, son of the late Don Roth, told the board the family had received no offers for the property. Otto Roth, Don Roth's father, opened a restaurant on Wabash Street in the Chicago Loop in 1920, almost half a century before the suburban version opened. The two restaurants were known for their spinning salad bowl and rolling roast beef cart.
Hein said he would rather spend the TIF district funds when a developer is found so the village would have more control over what type of business goes into the space.
No one argued with Trustee Ken Brady's assessment that the "building is useless."
"You would have to bring it up to code," Brady said The washrooms are in the basement and there is no elevator."
Hein said he was a firefighter who fought a bad blaze at the restaurant that preceded Roth's in the building. He called Don Roth "One of the finest restaurateurs around."
Brady called for zoning changes that would allow only restaurants or entertainment venues along Milwaukee Avenue and aviation-related businesses near the airport. Argiris said that issue would be discussed with the Plan Commission next week.