In most of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods, residents have a place to go out at night and enjoy live entertainment with friends and family. In Austin, this type of venue is a luxury, but one local business hopes to change that.
Potpourri Furniture Liquidators Inc. and Landmark Deli & Restaurant located at 5200 W. Chicago Ave. recently appeared before the City of Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals committee, seeking an amusement license. The license would allow admission to be charged and for entertainment and events to be held in the banquet hall.
The amusement license was granted, and co-owner John Young said the business, which has been located in Austin for over 35 years, will now be able to provide the safe and fun environment the community so desperately needs.
“We have always strived to meet the needs of our community, and this does precisely that,” he said. “There really isn’t much to do in this community on nights and weekends, and anytime a family or group of friends wants to do anything, they have to travel outside Austin and that’s not fair.”
Young said the goal is to have concerts for both youth and families. He added that they plan to open the banquet hall for events and gatherings.
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who wrote a letter in support, said Austin has needed this type of family-oriented entertainment venue to hold family reunions and celebratory events.
“I felt it was important to support a locally owned business like the Landmark Deli & Restaurant in their attempt to address this need,” Mitts said. “I want to promote business and economic development designed to make our community a strong, diverse area where constituents can live, work and play without leaving the neighborhood.”
Malcolm Crawford and his wife have been operating Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center, located just down the street at 5820 W. Chicago Ave., since 2007. The community center is used for everything from poetry readings, book reviews and belly dancing classes to graduation parties and family reunions. Sankofa is also rented out for church services on Sundays.
Crawford, who is friends with Young, said his center is different from Young’s facility, which will be a banquet hall that serves alcohol.
Young said Landmark Deli & Restaurant serves anywhere from 150 to 200 people each week. He, along with co-owner Earline Ruffin, hope to expand the current hours of 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. to a 24-hour restaurant, making it the first of its kind in Austin.
“We are very excited to expand our business to meet the needs of the community we serve,” Ruffin said. “We are open to any and all types of musics, and celebrations of all sorts. This is something the residents of Austin have asked for and need, and we are excited.”
Young and Ruffin employ 10 people, and with the new license hope to hire more West Side residents to help meet the demand of increased business. Young wasn’t sure how quickly the application process would start but hoped to hire around a dozen new employees.
In addition to Landmark Deli & Restaurant, which serves both Mexican and American cuisines, the Potpourri Furniture Liquidators Inc. sells wholesale furniture and other goods.
“The business has been very successful in the community,” Young said. “It is a nice place for families and people of all ages to come and have a good time. This license will provide us the opportunity to meet a wider range of people.”
Mitts said Young and Ruffin’s business brings choice, service and convenience to a community that doesn’t have as many options as other neighborhoods.
“Again, as long as they live up to their stated mission to bring quality entertainment options to the neighborhood, they will be embraced and supported by residents,” Ald. Mitts said.
“The Austin area is experiencing a resurgence of interest by local and national businesses, despite the tough economy. We want to continue this trend, to bring goods, services and programs to Austin that are readily abundant in many other Chicago neighborhoods,” the alderman said.