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On the Side restaurant closes in downtown Elgin

People enter On Side Restaurant downtown Elg2012. The restaurant closed recently. | Sun-Times Medifile

People enter On the Side Restaurant in downtown Elgin in 2012. The restaurant closed recently. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: February 17, 2014 7:59AM

ELGIN — On the Side Restaurant and Catering has closed its doors for good, making it the third downtown eatery to go out of business since September.

On the Side owner Tom Creighton said this week that although he built a base of regulars, he was not able to grow the business big enough to afford to stay open. The announcement of the closing was made on the restaurant’s Facebook page Monday night.

“It’s been a slow leak,” Creighton said of why he closed the eatery, at 74 S. Grove Ave.

“We did have a great group of regulars, and I am thankful to them and disappointed that we had to close,” he added.

As for why it seems so tough for restaurants to succeed downtown, Creighton said, “I don’t know.”

He mentioned that he likes what the city is doing with the riverwalk, which should open this spring, and the support the city gave him with grants to help get his business off the ground.

Breakfast crowd

Although Creighton had regulars, he said it was tough to draw a breakfast crowd that his research led him to believe there would be. While he had a steady stream of customers most of the time for lunch and did well on weekends, it wasn’t enough to stay open. He noted that there might not be enough people working downtown yet to support a place serving breakfast.

After opening in late 2012, Creighton told The Courier-News he checked out 20 spots before deciding to lease and open in what had been Red Bar. That restaurant opened in June 2009 and closed in May 2011.

Creighton said he had looked at all sorts of places and liked that Artspace — an artists colony which opened that fall — was nearby and that the riverwalk was being built.

“Elgin has had some tough times, but I fell in love with the character of the space,” Creighton said in December 2012.

On top of the On the Side closing, Ravenheart Coffee — at 176 E. Chicago St. — shut down the day after Thanksgiving; and Villa Verone — at 13 Douglas Ave. — closed its Elgin location in September.

The Courier-News reported in September on the struggle to bring eateries to the city, particularly higher-end ones. While representatives of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Neighborhood Association remained optimistic, a local restaurateur was less so.

Mike Burns — whose family owns and operates three Emmett’s pub locations, including in West Dundee — told the newspaper, “It would take a really unique, fun, casual place with an edge to differentiate it to pull people downtown.”

Burns added, “I think about it every day (opening a place in downtown Elgin), but I wouldn’t be willing to take the risk since it would be a safer bet elsewhere. The restaurant business is tough enough without adding a handicap.”

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