LINCOLN PARK — Parson's Chicken & Fish owners told Lincoln Park neighbors Monday that they'd not only turn an old auto-parts store into a destination restaurant, but they'd also be "a great neighbor and a benefit to the community."
Parson's co-owner Peter Toalson said he found the former LeMay Auto Parts garage at 2435 N. Halsted St. "a good fit," akin to the restaurant's similarly gritty original Logan Square location.
"Historically, that's what we do: buy bad buildings," Toalson told residents at a community meeting organized by Ald. Michele Smith (43rd). "We just like weird, bad buildings."
Parson's has signed a 15-year lease on the building, contingent on getting a zoning change to allow a bar in the restaurant.
Toalson said the restaurant envisions an L-shaped restaurant with an L-shaped bar at the center and an outdoor patio in the recess off Halsted. It would include the restaurant's trademark ping-pong tables at the front of the building. He said that, pending city approval, it would seat 150 inside, with 36 at the bar, and another 100 outdoors when the weather allows. Hours would generally be 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., with the patio open until 11 p.m. or midnight.
A few dozen local residents expressed concerns about traffic and parking, but primarily noise, especially with the outdoor seating.
Bob Rifkin pointed out that North Burling Street across an alley behind the former LeMay Auto Parts is a long block between Wrightwood and Fullerton avenues and accustomed to quiet.
"This is going to upset the calm that we're used to," Rifkin said.
Toalson said Parson's would have no music on the patio, and pledged not to seek a separate license to allow live music.
"We are a restaurant first, bar second," Toalson said. "I can assure you that will not happen with us.
"All of our projects have been in neighborhoods. We're neighborhood guys," Toalson added. "We've shown ourselves to be conscientious and good neighbors." Citing the restaurant group's Longman & Eagle as well, he said they were out to preserve a track record as "a great neighbor and a benefit to the community."
Toalson said they intended to return the site to its original zoning once obtaining a liquor license, to discourage any similar outlets on that stretch of Halsted, a move cheered by Smith.
"Is Halsted going to turn into a bar row?" Smith said. "The answer is no. Actually, there are fewer now than there used to be."
Local residents who exacted concessions from the Lincoln Common development across Fullerton on the former site of Children's Memorial Hospital were generally receptive, with many saying they were already Parson's customers. Some even applauded the presentation at the end of the hour-long meeting Monday evening across the street from the proposed restaurant in the Children's Memorial Research Center, 2430 N. Halsted.
Smith emphasized they could have concessions written into a Plan of Operations that would be attached to the Parson's liquor license, if ultimately granted.
The proposal now heads for the City Council Zoning Committee ahead of the Council's next meeting Sept. 5, with Smith saying she would weigh the community's response.
Toalson said that if all goes smoothly they hoped to be open next spring.