After pandemic delays, investors hope to restart Blue Martini Lounge project in Schaumburg

Investors behind the planned transformation of the former Ram Restaurant & Brewery near Woodfield Mall into a Blue Martini Lounge are hoping the Cook County Board will soon decide on a proposed tax incentive to assist the project.

Schaumburg officials recommended the Class 7A tax incentive back in March 2020, but a decision from the county has been postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Project co-investor Michael Manzo now sees the delay as a blessing, in light of the pandemic-related restrictions that would have been imposed on the new business.

"If we had already been open, it would have been disastrous financially," Manzo said.

The delay hasn't been painless, however. The investors have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes that have been unmatched by revenues. But the losses would have been in the millions had the restaurant and lounge tried to open during the thick of the pandemic, Manzo said.

At 11,906 square feet, the former Ram building at 1901 McConnor Parkway is Schaumburg's largest free-standing restaurant space. Blue Martini Lounge investors purchased it last year for $1.6 million and planned a major renovation that was then estimated at $1.2 million.

They now hope to start the renovation, which would take at least six or seven months, in either the last quarter of 2021 or the first quarter of 2022, Manzo said.

The county tax incentive, which essentially cuts property taxes in half for 12 years, is essential to the project's bottom line, he said.

The incentive can be granted only by the county board if recommended by the municipality in which it would be used. It works by reducing the level of assessment on the property from 25% to 10% for the first 10 years, then adjusting it to 15% in year 11 and 20% in year 12, before returning to normal.

Blue Martini Lounge is a restaurant and nightclub concept started in Florida 20 years ago. Its nine current locations include Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

  Schaumburg officials recommended a property tax incentive for the proposed Blue Martini Lounge that would replace the former Ram Restaurant & Brewery at 1901 McConnor Parkway, but 17 months later the Cook County Board has yet to formally consider it. Paul Valade/, 2020
A rendering of the Blue Martini Lounge planned to replace the former Ram Restaurant & Brewery in Schaumburg before the end of 2022. Courtesy of Michael Manzo
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