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Debate weighs heavily on funding for Anvil Club in East Dundee

The financially troubled Anvil Club super club  East Dundee. | Sun-Times Medifile

The financially troubled Anvil Club super club in East Dundee. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: October 8, 2013 9:47AM

EAST DUNDEE — Otto Engineering President Tom Roeser stands by his remarks that East Dundee should use tax increment finance funds for renovations to the Anvil Club.

But others also continue to oppose using taxpayer support for private supper club, including the Fox Valley Libertarian Party which is inviting the public to join it on Saturdays at the club to protest the move.

Anvil Club officials are trying to boost their membership, and recently were before the East Dundee Village Board asking for about $300,000 in the form of TIF funds for renovations on the Meier Street building.

The Anvil Club would also like to participate in the village’s facade program, designed to encourage property owners and business tenants to improve the overall exterior appearance of commercial buildings along major thoroughfares within the village.

In August, Roeser, who has bought several sites in the village in order to help revamp the downtown, urged the village to support the Anvil Club’s funding request. The Carpentersville businessman said the 57-year-old club, which he considers an anchor, will likely go out of business without the village’s help and if that were to happen, “then I don’t have the faith to further this. That single use building is going to be here as an eyesore for a long time.”

“There’s been a lot of rumor and innuendo and comment about that,” Roeser said Thursday. “What I would like to tell people is that Costco is a private club, too. Anybody can join Costco, but you can’t go unless you’re a member. And I think people would die to have a Costco revenue stream in East Dundee. The issue of it being a private club needs to be pushed aside. It’s not an exclusive club; it’s a membership club.”

Dinner subsidy?

Trustee Allen Skillicorn is one who doesn’t think the village should use public funds for the private business.

“Maybe the Anvil Club has done a poor job of reaching out to new members. I don’t see that being a good reason to subsidize the members’ dinners,” he said. “Basically, if the Anvil Club doesn’t get the money from the village, they’re going to have to get the money from its members. Costco doesn’t ask me to subsidize for their members.”

The local Libertarian Party agrees with Skillicorn. Last week, members of the group gathered in East Dundee to inform the community about the issue.

“And it’s apparent the public does not know what’s going on,” said FVLP member Kelly Liebmann. “As Libertarians, we obviously like smaller government and we don’t like taxes and are trying to fight for the taxpayer on this. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing a private business, let alone one that is a private dinner club.”

The group plans to continue staging protests on Saturdays in East Dundee throughout the month of October to get the word out. It is urging residents who disagree with allowing TIF funding for the renovations to call their trustees and let them know.

Roeser said the success of the downtown very much depends on keeping the private supper club in the village.

“If (officials) don’t help the Anvil Club and it closes or leaves, that is a huge dent in what East Dundee is trying to do,” he said. “The Anvil Club, with its 1,500 families, they bring a lot of people in the area for revenue, but also from outside the area. It’s very important to the downtown.”

In September, the Anvil Club began allowing the public in for lunch between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays. It is the first time the club has opened itself up to non-members in its almost 60-year history.

While Skillicorn noted it is a “good first step,” he thinks the downtown could use a premier restaurant and questions why the Anvil Club isn’t always open to the public.

Character change

But Roeser said going public full time would change the character of the restaurant. He said private supper clubs are still a big draw.

“The Anvil Club can afford to invest in service and quality because of the membership fee,” he said. “I do not think as a standalone restaurant it would have the same complexion or attract someone from St. Charles on a routine basis who would then spend money elsewhere in town.”

However, Skillicorn said a “top notch restaurant would be its own draw.”

“I would think a really nice restaurant is going to have its own following and probably bring in the same type of people,” he said.

Roeser said he has no skin in the game where the Anvil Club is concerned.

“I want it to happen because I think it’s good for everybody,” he said. “I think East Dundee can be terrific.”

Liebmann is urging the community to oppose what she calls “a taxpayer bailout for the Anvil Club.”

“There are members of the club who are sticking up for the club, saying taxpayers should pay for it because it helps the businesses downtown. But I don’t feel the reward is as good as what taxpayers will have to pay,” she said.

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