Road project claims yet another Elgin business
By Dave Gathman firstname.lastname@example.org February 18, 2014 5:28PM
Updated: February 19, 2014 2:53PM
ELGIN — When fans of football, pizza and beer gathered at JB’s Pub and Pizza to watch the Super Bowl two weeks ago, it may have been their last time at a tavern that’s been a west-side institution for eight decades.
The pub closed at the end of that day, becoming the latest in a string of businesses along South McLean Boulevard that have been pushed out of existence, or at least forced to move, by the four-year-long Route 20/McLean Boulevard reconstruction project.
But the pub’s owner, Jim Bollman, says the landmark tavern still may return to life if state and city officials cooperate with him.
“It’s a shame,” said Jose Aguirre of Extreme Renovations, as he drove a small bulldozer picking up debris and scrap metal on the JB’s lot last Friday. “This place was like ‘Cheers’ on TV — the kind of tavern where everybody knows your name. I hear that all they needed was 10 more parking spaces. But that was it. It didn’t meet the city code anymore.”
JB’s occupies the northeast corner of McLean and Lillian Street. Through an eminent domain suit last year, the Illinois Department of Transportation forced Bollman to turn over about half of JB’s parking lot to the state.
The land was needed so contractors this summer can make major changes to the intersection of Lillian and McLean. The state plans to:
Install twin left-turn lanes on Lillian for westbound motorists wanting to turn southbound onto McLean, and on McLean for southbound cars wanting to turn eastbound onto Lillian.
Add a right-turn lane on northbound McLean for cars heading eastbound onto Lillian.
Add 2-foot-wide concrete median strips along much of McLean and Lillian to keep drivers from turning left across oncoming lanes.
Make the outside lanes on McLean 14 feet wide to accommodate a bike lane.
Aguirre was part of a crew that tore down the pub’s storage annex and carried scrap metal and equipment out of its beer garden and kitchen. The main body of the building has not been demolished, and it appears the storage building’s removal could be intended to increase the area remaining for parking spaces.
Asked Tuesday what his long-range plans are for the building, Bollman said, “I don’t know yet. We’re in negotiations.”
Bollman said those negotiations involve both IDOT and the city of Elgin. “I really don’t want to say” what is being negotiated because ongoing litigation concerning the state’s property takeover, he said.
He said he still hopes some arrangement can be made that allows the pub to reopen, “but it can’t work the way they want it to be. We’re going to see what we can do. But we have to know what the ground rules will be.”
Bollman said all of JB’s employees were laid off when the pub closed, but he declined to say how many employees there had been.
Started about 80 years ago, the pub was known as the Boulevard Tap for many years. Bollman took over 33 years ago and renamed it JB’s after his initials.
Two events put JB’s in the news in recent years. In 2001, the pub became the site of what then-Kane County State’s Attorney Meg Gorecki described as “the most horrific shooting rampage in Kane County history.” A disgruntled patron named Luther Casteel began shooting at random in the bar area, killing two people and wounding 20 more.
Last year, Bollman was involved in a legal battle with the city because he has been allowing a van from the TLC Pregnancy Services to park in the pub’s parking lot, counseling pregnant women and teenagers. That case recently was settled by TLC and the city.
When interviewed by The Courier-News last August, Bollman said, “(The state’s lawyers) say I can tear the place down and this corner would still make a good spot for a Starbuck’s or something like that. But we’re not a Starbuck’s. We’re a neighborhood tavern.
“I guess that’s all that will be left in Elgin now — chain stores and Starbuck’s and gas stations owned by nationwide chains,” he said in August.
Also forced to give up part of its land for the street widening, the Shell service station across the street from JB’s went out of business last summer. A Dunkin’ Donuts shop and more than a half-dozen businesses in two strip malls along McLean also have either moved or closed.