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Officials cite Al Capone’s Hideaway as unsafe building

Owner says lack of liquor license holds back restaurant plans

ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – The iconic building that was the former Al Capone’s Hideaway and Steakhouse in St. Charles Township was cited by Kane County building officials as being unsafe and dangerous.

The building is in danger of being demolished, the new owners said, if they cannot redevelop it as a family restaurant with a liquor license.

The former restaurant was bought by the Casiello family, whose members also own Alley 64 in St. Charles and The Dam Bar in Geneva.

They were going to rename it Hideaway 64, but after a liquor license was denied last year, Jeremy Casiello said the family did not see a purpose to put any more money into it.

“They [county officials] put the notice up, but they have not told us what the violations were – other than to cut the weeds,” Casiello said. “Because we have no liquor license, there is no sense to put a restaurant on this property as of right now. We are in the process of working with the county to reinstate the liquor license – or take it to court.”

Casiello said a couple of developers approached the family about demolishing the Hideaway and redeveloping the area for housing. Casiello said the family has not taken them up on their offer – so far.

“We’re keeping all our options open,” Casiello said. “We are in the process of dealing with attorneys and [county officials], trying to get all of our ducks in a row. We’ll make an educated decision on how far we want to take this. … [But] we’re not dumping any more money into this if we’re not getting cooperation from the county.”

The Hideaway, at 35W337 Riverside Drive in St. Charles Township, was built in 1920 as one of the gangster’s properties. The restaurant closed in February 2012 after 38 years. The Casiellos bought the property in 2014.

They won a zoning change last year to allow a restaurant with a deck overlooking the river, an expanded parking lot, signage and other changes, according to their application.

The rezoning was necessary because after the restaurant closed, the property reverted to its original zoning, which was farming, documents show.

The Kane County Liquor Control Commission voted 4-1 on May 18, 2016, against allowing it to have a liquor license.

Mark VanKerkhoff, director of the Kane County Development and Resource Management Department, said his department has been in contact with the Casiellos.

“They are working to make improvements to the property as well as figure out their future plans based on the zoning permitted uses for the property,” VanKerkhoff said.

“They are not being required to knock it down,” VanKerkhoff said. “Demolition is not necessarily the immediate outcome.”

The Sept. 7 posting stated, “Do not enter. Dangerous and/or unsafe building.”

At the May 18 Liquor Control Commission meeting, residents spoke of their safety concerns regarding the neighborhood’s narrow, dark and steep roads. They also noted the absence of sidewalks and roadside shoulders, as well as the nearby school and park that is popular with children.

Neighbors had testified about those concerns during the zoning hearing, as well as fears about drunken drivers.

Casiello said one of the questions he had about the Liquor Control Commission’s meeting was that it was held at the Valley View Baptist Church, which is near the Hideaway’s location.

“It’s pretty odd they would have a liquor license meeting at a Baptist church,” Casiello said.

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, who is also chairman of the Liquor Control Commission, said the meeting was held where it was easier for neighbors to attend.

Lauzen said the liquor license was denied because of public health and safety issues.

“Anyone who applies or re-applies for a liquor license, we will be respectful and we’ll listen carefully and do our best to make decisions within the context of the public health and safety requirement,” Lauzen said.

Lauzen also disputed that the lack of a liquor license is holding up Casiello’s restaurant plans.

“That is his decision, not our decision” Lauzen said. “If he wants to run a restaurant, he does have approvals for that.”

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