Schaumburg Library ending lease for cafe
The Schaumburg Township District Library plans to not renew the lease of the cafe near the entrance of its 22-year-old central building in Schaumburg on Dec. 31 in order to complete an overall renovation of the first floor in 2020, but not everyone is happy about it.
Elbert Julian of Hanover Park -- who's operated the private business for the past 13 years -- said he's saddened to be leaving, while library patron Walter Lee of Schaumburg says he's compiling a petition that's up to 640 signatures to try to persuade library trustees to change their minds.
But library board President Anita Forte-Scott said much thought already has been put into replacing the cafe with a multipurpose room in which people can bring their own food, and which might be equipped with state-of-the-art vending facilities.
She added that officials have been communicating with Julian about the nonrenewal of his lease since the middle of the year.
"Change is hard for people, but that does not stop progress," Forte-Scott said. "We are definitely moving away from being a landlord."
At the very least, the space that has been used exclusively for the preparation and consumption of food for more than 20 years is due for a deep cleaning, she said. But officials believe a different use of the room is necessary for the library to remain the leader it's long been, she added.
"It definitely now needs a complete remodel," Forte-Scott said. "We just all agreed it's time for a new offering."
Julian said he knew his lease expired every three years, but because it was considered renewable he thought it always would be. He said he received the official notification three months ago to vacate the space on Dec. 31.
"I was shocked when they said I couldn't renew because they were going to remodel the place," Julian said. "Because this is like home; it's kind of breaking my heart to leave."
Julian said he was living in Chicago and working in real estate when he learned of the opportunity to buy the business from the previous leaseholder. It came to his attention because his children were attending Schaumburg Christian School nearby.
Since then, he also ran the Golden Chopsticks restaurant in Hoffman Estates for about three years but is now back to the library cafe being his main venture.
He said the finances of his business are very much tied to its library location, and to move to a regular commercial building would see his rent at least triple. He currently has tentative plans to sell his equipment and get back into real estate.
But Lee believes it's not too late for the library board to change course. He's still circulating his petition among students at Schaumburg and Conant high schools and said he wants trustees to know that local families appreciate the cafe and its offerings as is.
"It's for a good cause -- it's for the kids and their parents," Lee said.
He added that as the trustees were elected to represent the will of their constituents, his petition demonstrates what people would like to see happen at the library.
"Sometimes people want to get a hot meal," Lee said. "If there's going to be a change, they should be giving this guy more space."
Forte-Scott said Lee and Julian are so far the only people who've talked to her about the cafe lease, and the board has yet to see the petition Lee refers to.
Renovation of the cafe space is expected to be completed in about three months, Forte-Scott said. In the meantime, patrons will be allowed to eat and drink in the recently renovated space designated as the Workshop on the first floor.
Decisions are still pending on the purchase of vending machines for the new multipurpose room that will succeed the cafe.
"We are looking at some options that are very high-tech," Forte-Scott said.