Hot dogs and punk rock planned in downtown Elgin
'Faux speak-easy' planned at former Smooth Fox in Elgin
Hot dogs, skateboards, punk rock and free arcade games -- Matthew Habib believes that's a winning combination for his new business in downtown Elgin.
Habib and his wife, who own a food truck of gourmet hot dogs and Hawaiian shaved ice, are working on opening Legit Dogs & Ice -- the Bomb Shelter in the basement of Dream Hall at 51 Grove Ave.
The venue will mirror the food truck's menu and will have access to a tap room planned on the first floor of the building. There will be a 30-foot movie screen and five 50-inch screen for arcade games like "Pac-Man Battle Royale" open to multiple players. The plan is to host birthday parties and special events such as punk rock shows, movie nights and stand-up comedy, Habib said.
The decor includes skateboards -- strictly on the wall -- and segments of album cover art from bands like Rancid, Social Distortion and Naked Raygun. The target opening date is March 21.
Habib, who's in his 30s and lives in Elgin with his wife, Jennifer Polit, and their three kids, grew up in Chicago as a lover of skateboards and punk rock. He said he specifically wanted to open his business in a basement "because that way it's legit." He envisions serving a clientele ages 12 to 50.
"There is a huge wave of nostalgia for this. This will bring people in and allow them to relive their childhood, and share that with their kids," he said. "Our motto is, 'Get out of your mom's basement and come hang out in ours.' It's a faux speak-easy."
The building belongs to Elgin businessman Kevin Echevarria, who is working on getting final permits for the city that would allow others to operate different components of Dream Hall.
There will be a taproom, food hall and space for events such as workshops, pop-ups, classes and more. Echevarria said he'd hoped the taproom would be granted a liquor license this month, but the process was delayed by the plan to offer growler service, or take-away draft beer.
The building previously held the Smooth Fox bar, which had a tumultuous year in business and eventually lost its liquor license. Before that, it was Mr. Tequila's and Mad Maggie's. Habib said he wouldn't have considered the building if not for Echevarria's creative plans for Dream Hall. "If he was just opening a regular restaurant, no way," he said. "But he's thinking out of the box, which is what this place needs."
Polit said the location is perfect. "We lose our legitimacy if we are just in some strip mall. We want to be off the beaten path, and we wanted to stay in Elgin."
The couple went through a rough time last fall after their food truck's engine blew out and Habib was injured in a car accident while preparing for a fundraiser to fix the truck. But the Fox Valley community came through in a big way, and the food truck is set to relaunch in April, they said.
Residents of the condo building across the street have complained about loud music from the various venues at 51. S. Grove Ave. Habib and Echevarria said sounds from the basement would not drift up and the venue -- like Dream Hall -- will close by 11 p.m.