Safety deters 24-hour eateries, despite NU business

Yuxing Zheng

A case of the late-night munchies brought Weinberg freshman Ashlee Cassman and Communication freshman Joanna Thapa to Burger King at 3 a.m. last Sunday.

“It’s the only place that’s open this late,” Cassman said between bites of her chicken sandwich.

Cassman, like other NU students, chooses from a limited number of late-night dining options in the area. Evanston has only three restaurants open for 24 hours, with Burger King, 1740 Orrington Ave., being the only one within walking distance of campus. The other two restaurants are Steak ‘n Shake at 2209 Oakton St. and International House of Pancakes at 100 Asbury Ave.

Other businesses recently have tried to fill the late-night void, but some aldermen have expressed concern about 24-hour restaurants.

Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) said he is reluctant to grant more 24-hour permits because of the late-night safety and traffic issues at current 24-hour facilities.

“There have been some concerns about people at the Burger King near campus,” Bernstein said. “There have been, over the years, problems of people who have gone into these facilities after drinking heavily all night long.”

These concerns may have led to hot dog chain Gold Coast Dogs withdrawing a proposal two weeks ago to open a restaurant at 1168 Dodge Ave.

The restaurant chain originally asked if it could open a 24-hour location, but aldermen on the city’s Planning and Development Committee said they would only allow the restaurant to remain open for 18 hours a day.

“You question why a hot dog joint has to be open 24 hours,” Bernstein said. “You have a facility that’s open 24 hours and at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning … if some criminal wants to take advantage of the situation they can do that.”

Rafiq Ghaswala, vice president of operations for Gold Coast, declined to comment on his reason for withdrawing the application.

Burger King has had its permit to operate a 24-hour restaurant for the past 15 years, store manager Jay Darshane said. But the license has come with its restrictions, such as requiring two security guards present in the store at night.

“(City officials) want to keep the downtown area quiet at night,” Darshane said. “Less people on the street, less crime, less police officers. … They don’t want a lot of traffic at night. They’d have to employ more police officers. They want to encourage people to stay at home.”

Darshane estimated that 90 percent of Burger King’s nighttime customers are NU students. He said revenue would fall by 20 percent if the restaurant was closed in the evenings.

“Because of the college, it gets more busy at nights,” Darshane said. “It’s basically all our business at night.”

The most recent 24-hour restaurant to open was Steak ‘n Shake, which started up more than two years ago. A manager at the Evanston IHOP said her restaurant had been open for 24 hours since it first opened 41 years ago.

Despite concerns from aldermen, NU students Cassman and Thapa both said they would like to see more 24-hour restaurants in Evanston, especially near campus.

“If there was a restaurant up north that was open 24 hours, it would get a ton of business,” Thapa said. “It’d be a really big help, not only to us, but (to) the Evanston community because they’d make a lot of money.”