City to consider $200,000 tax rebate for new Black Dog building owner

CHAMPAIGN — The owner of the Illinois Central Railroad Depot in downtown Champaign is asking the city for tax reimbursements to help along a $1.3 million renovation to make way for Black Dog Smoke & Ale House.

The old depot on the east side of downtown — just east of Memphis on Main — has been vacant for 30 years, and its owners are expecting they will need to make extensive renovations to make it suitable for the restaurant.

With council approval, the city would rebate up to $200,000 in sales taxes and food and beverage taxes generated by the restaurant. Black Dog has already signed a lease to move in to the space, but the new location (it has an existing location in downtown Urbana) is contingent on building owner William Youngerman making a deal with the city.

Here is the memo from the city manager to the council on the proposal.

The Champaign City Council will meet in study session to discuss the project at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

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ERE wrote on September 30, 2013 at 9:09 am
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Sounds like a "win-win" for everyone. While some might call a tax break like this a "handout" in these times, this is the renovation and use of a building that has been vacant for decades. Decades. A vibrant downtown sets Champaign apart from many other Illinois cities, and all the economic activity does nothing but help the overall tax revenue. 

Black Dog is a terrific business that will only benefit downtown Champaign. Such an investment deserves a one-time tax break. We are going to need new places to feed all the Illini fans here to enjoy our resurgent teams and vibrant arts/culture events, etc.  

I hope they do not continue the Urbana location. It's a great little building (RIP Tod and Johns) and wow, has Black Dog done great things there, but it would be great if they leased it to a new chef group to start yet another future notable CU restaurant. These low cost incubator sites like that building, Mas Amigos' original site, and the Ye Olde Donut shop are really key to unique restaurant start-ups. Recently really enjoyed Ace Biscuit and BBQ in Charlottesville, VA, another awesome place started at a lower cost venue. 

serf wrote on September 30, 2013 at 9:09 am

I hope they DO continue their Urbana location.  You know, the ORIGINAL site of the restaurant.  Your post comes across as being very business-oriented, which is fine, but let's not lose sight of the human factor.  

Don't sell out, Black Dog.  Don't forget your roots.  Good luck at your new location, but don't forget about the place that got you there.

Ron wrote on September 30, 2013 at 11:09 am

Absolutely not. The richest man in Champaign, the most successful restaurant. If it does not make economic sense, don't do it. Don't get me wrong. Great old building. But if the city has money for this they should be passing out money to all the restaurants and bars that are not in the city's special preferred district. Almost every weekend this summer, the city and park district have been promoting the downtown at the expense of all other businesses that are not in the city's special preferred district.

cjwinla wrote on September 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm

While we can appreciate Black Dog opening in downtown Champaign to utilize these taxes would be a gross negligence of duty. The restaurant will not generate significant new customer traffic and instead would be pulling customers from existing businesses that are paying the F&B and Sales tax. So the net result will be a decrease in overall F&B and Sales tax receipts to the City. They are leaving the Black Dog in Urbana open so it wont be bringing new customers from across town. What is even more appalling is that Mayor Gerard is championing this cause to exempt this restaurant from their taxes and yet he was the leading advocate to not exempt the churches from the storm water tax. Seems to be it is Mayor Gerard's policy to help his business owner friends while ignoring the needs of the churches and existing business owners. Pickens Chicken just opened a restaurant on north 4th street. Did TJ Blakeman contact them about getting a F&B tax rebate ? Did Mayor Gerard champion them for city assistance ? Of course not. In fact of all the tax rebates considered and approved since Mayor Gerard took office not one has gone to an African American entity or neighborhood. $10 million in tax incentives to Republican developers since Mayor Gerard took office. The old GOP creed of "limited government except for our buddies" is alive and well under Mayor Gerard. All of you " Conservative Republicans " on the Council , Bruno, Feinen, McIntosh, do you believe in limited government except when your buddies like Alan Nudo a known Republican operative, is seeking government rebates on taxes for his clients? To the community I want to demonstrate to you very clearly Mayor Gerard does not fight for our community on important issues like exempting our churches on the stormwater taxes but will fight for his buddies like the owners of Black Dog and others to receive tax rebates/city services that are not available to the community. 18 more months of this madness till he is voted out thankfully.

bluegrass wrote on September 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Hmmmm...   How can the "old GOP creed"of "limited government except for our buddies," be alive and well under a mayor who is a Democrat?  I do get your point about political favors and the like, but I just wonder if your blame is misplaced. 

Also, I keep reading this word, "operative."  What exactly is the difference between a local Republican, and a local Republican operative?  Are there Democrat operatives?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on October 02, 2013 at 2:10 am
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LOL....he blames both the "Democrat" and "Republican" politicians in town, and you still harp on it.

You'd better only blame the Democrats, mister!  EVERYTHING is their fault!!!

alabaster jones 71 wrote on October 02, 2013 at 2:10 am
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Well said, cjwinla.  Favoritism and cronyism win again.

Oh well, at least it's not several million for a hotel that nobody will stay at..........or for a parking garage that nobody uses.