Two area buffets flame out

  • Written by Bob Rakow

The Flaming Grill Buffet has beenpage-1-color-3-col-flameThings were flaming hot when the Hibachi Grill and Grand Buffet opened up in December, 2012 in Orland Park. The Hibachi Grill and Chicago Ridge’s Flaming Grill closed earlier this month. extinguished for good.

Taking a page from the Robert Irsay playbook, the owners of the Chicago Ridge restaurant left town for good about two weeks ago without a word to anyone.
“They’re gone. They disappeared in the middle of the night,” Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar said. “It’s very peculiar.”
Irsay, the former owner of the Baltimore Colts football team, required a fleet of moving trucks in 1984 to move his team and its possessions out of the city under the cover of darkness to its current home in Indianapolis.
The Flaming Grill’s departure wasn’t quite so elaborate.
Tokar said he received a phone call from Chicago Ridge Commons management informing him that the embattled restaurant had closed.
“Can you believe it? After all the nonsense they put us through,” Tokar said.
While the Flaming Grill Buffet left the premises without reason, the Hibachi Grill and Grand Buffet in Orland Park was evicted in early March by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office for non-payment of rent, a sheriff’s spokesperson said.
A notice of code violation in the entrance window said Flaming Grill was cited for “nuisances regarding premises.” Specifically, the notice said, the restaurant had an overflowing dumpster and the area around the dumpster had to be cleaned.
But it seemed things were looking up for the Asian-American buffet in recent weeks, Tokar said.
Management apparently resolved the issues village health inspectors had raised in recent months, and the village board recently approved the business license transfer required when the restaurant changed hands.
The saga between the village and Flaming Grill, 101 Commons Drive, has gone on for several months. The village threatened to close the restaurant late last year after it did not pay several months’ worth of food and beverage taxes it owed the village. Restaurant owners also failed to appear at numerous village hearings regarding the taxes.
The sanitation issues were identified by village health inspector Rich Ruge who said he was concerned with the way the Flaming Grill has been conducting its day-to-day operations and ticketed the restaurant in January for some sanitation violations.
Ruge said he made a routine inspection on Jan. 15 and saw some things he didn’t like and gave the restaurant officials time to conform. But when he returned on Jan. 20, the restaurant was still “not following the best-case practice for Chicago Ridge.”
He wouldn’t get specific on what he saw but said “it was nothing severe that would cause us to close it down.’’ He said he identified some sub-par sanitation practices that required immediate attention. When he conducted a follow-up inspection, the restaurant had not rectified the problems and Ruge issued a ticket, he said.
The buffet, which served a mixture of Japanese and Chinese cuisine, opened in the former Old Country Buffet location. The restaurant also features American food, desserts and a hibachi grill.
Tokar said Chicago Ridge Commons management will attempt to fill the space, which might be difficult because it features three dining areas.
“It’s an opportunity for some restaurant to come in there,” the mayor said.

Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: (Heart) breaking news – I am older than this paper


jeff columnNOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Say it ain’t so!
Short of a loved one dying or getting sick, it doesn’t get much worse to hear news like this.
It was such a surprise – a depressing surprise.
I noticed that last week’s Reporter’s front page said Volume LV No. 1 on it. Hmmm. No. 1?
The genius reporter in me figured out that it must mean the paper may have celebrated a birthday.
So I used all of my investigative skills and resources (I asked around in the office) and publisher Amy Richards informed me that indeed the Reporter is now in its 55th year and just turned 54.
Upon deeper and more thorough investigation (Amy gave me a couple of special sections from 2005 and 2010 to look over) I discovered that the first Reporter came out March 16, 1960.
I was born in December, 1959.
That means I’m older than this newspaper.
I’m older than a newspaper that some people have saidpage-3-2-col-with-jvcolA look at the cover of the first Reporter on March 16, 1960. The paper is heading into its 55th year but it is still a few months younger than its current editor. Photo by Jeff Vorva. “has been around a long time’’ and some people have said, gulp, “has been around forever.”
I knew I was older than some high schools.
I knew I was older than a handful of towns.
But older than a newspaper that’s “been around forever’’ is a true shock to my system.
There were two other times in my professional life when the ol’ time-is-speeding-by-too-fast realization hit me.
The first time was when I covered a high school softball game and asked the coach for a roster. This particular roster happened to have the birthdates of all the players on it. They were all born after I graduated high school.
The second time came when Lincoln-Way football coach Rob Glielmi retired in 2007. This is a coach who won an Illinois High School Association Class 6A state championship in 1997 and played football at Illinois.
I remember him for messing up his name when he was a kid.
I was just starting my newspaper career as a sportswriter in the late 1970s and, to my knowledge, might have been the first person whose name I botched up in the paper. Hey, the Internet wasn’t around to double check and I thought it was “Gliemi.’’
Anyway, back then he was a young defensive player for Lincoln-Way and I’m sure more than one dopey writer forgot to drop that second L into his name.
Now I find out I am older than a long established newspaper.
Most papers I worked for were born around the time my grandfathers, great grandfathers, not-so-great grandfathers and great, great grandfathers were walking the earth.
Oh, well. Time to put away the self-pity and to try to make issue Volume LV No. 2 – and future issues – of the Reporter as compelling and fun as we can around here.
Happy birthday, Reporter, and may we all live on for many, many years.

Wisdom from the past
The guy who first ran the Reporter, Edward E. Roelofs, wrote his Publisher’s Statement of Policy 54 years ago about his brand-spankin’ new paper.
Among his comments were: “The publisher and his staff present it with hope that you, the reader, will find it meets for needs for an unbiased, scrupulously accurate, friendly and complete newspaper covering local people, organizations and events.”
He also said: “We want you to LIKE our paper – and to be proud it is circulated in your area.’’
Those thoughts ring true for us today.


Shorn begorrah, locks are lost at Advocate’s St. Baldrick’s Day

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

There were more than 60 people who were scheduled to get more than just a haircut on Saturday morning in Oak Lawn.
Men, women and children lined up for Advocate PAGE-1-COLOR-1-COL-and-PAGE-4-2-col-Mary-2Palos Heights’ Mary Butler shows off a hunk of hair that was cut off during the St. Baldrick fundraising event at Advocate Children’s Hospital. Photo by Jeff Vorva.Children’s Hospital’s St. Baldrick’s Day fundraiser with money going to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
The fundraiser shows solidarity with children who lose their hair while undergoing treatment for cancer. Participants on Saturday had already raised more than $27,000 in support of St. Baldrick’s. Since the St. Baldrick’s Foundation was formed in 2005, the annual program has raised more than $100 million in childhood cancer research grants nationwide, according to a news release.
For 2 ½ hours people from all over the Chicago area came to the event with hair and left bald and it was all for a good cause.

Video gaming proves to be good gamble so far in Hickory Hills

  • Written by Kelly White

Video gaming has been boosting revenue for the City of Hickory Hills and its businesses.
During the video gaming’s first full year in in the city in 2013, annual net profits reached a total of $127,000. Out of the $127,000, $38,000 was distributed to the State of Illinois with five percent going to Hickory Hills, leaving $88,000 to be split evenly between the video gaming machine vendor and the location provider of the machines.
“This has brought in a tremendous amount of revenue for our local city’s businesses,” City Treasurer, Dan Schramm said during a recent committee meeting.
In January, 2013, the city had video gaming in seven machines in two locations totaling a net profit of $717. Last December, video gaming had increased to nine locations throughout Hickory Hills with a combined number of 37 machines, totaling a net profit of $5,900.
“As you can see, increasing the number of locations and machines increased the revenue dramatically from the start of 2013 in January through December,” Schramm added.
The city receives a five percent share on the total net profit monthly from each location, with 30 percent of the total net profit going to the State of Illinois. The city’s year-to-date grossed revenue from video gaming stands at $4,200.
Jan. 2014, the city saw in increase of interest again in video gaming as three more locations introduced the machines, resulting in 48 machines in 12 locations throughout Hickory Hills, totaling in a net profit of $6,300.
Schramm added two of the locations that added video gaming machines in January failed to see any profits; Les Brothers, 7730 W 95th St., due to its closing for renovations as a result of a kitchen fire, and Stella’s Place, 8067 W 95th St., for opening later on during the month.
“Les Brothers actually lost money for purchasing the machines when they did,” Schramm said.
The city received a total of 15 application listings for video gaming, with 12 locations running actively.
Three of the locations are still pending approval or awaiting the machines. The 12 active gaming locations are: Great Wall Restaurant, 8110 W 95th St., Janosiak’s Banquets, 9126 S. Roberts Rd., Stella’s, 8067 W 95th St., Kowal’s, 9401 S Roberts Rd., Dirty Sock, 9300 S. Roberts Rd., Roadhouse, 9090 S. Roberts Rd., Aunt D’s, 8703 W 95th St., Primetime, 7750 W 95th St., Les Bros Restaurant, 7730 W 95th St., Nick & Vito’s, 9644 S. Roberts Rd., Cravens, 8833 W. 87th St. and Hickory Hills Properties.
“Once an application is received, it still takes about 90 days to receive the machines if their application is accepted,” City Clerk, Dee Catizone said before last Thursday’s city council meeting. “If businesses or banquet halls within the city are interested in having these machines up and running come spring or summer time, I suggest they get their applications in soon.”
Three businesses are seeing the largest activity from video gaming in their locations: Primetime, Roberts Roadhouse and Janosik Banquets. Besides the two restaurant/bar locations, Mayor Mike Howley noted Janosik Banquets is probably seeing such an excellent turnout in video gaming activity due to wedding receptions, dinner events and other large banquet events hosting a large number of people, especially from out of town.
Some locations, including Aunt D’s Wine Bar, 8703 W 95th St., have stopped by at senior citizen events throughout the community handing out coupons and flyers to help promote their businesses.
“This brings in residents who wouldn’t normally go into these businesses, or maybe they didn’t even know they were out there, and once they visit them they see and take part in the video gaming,” Howley added.
Hickory Hills is hoping for a continued rise in both video gaming activity and locations in 2014.
• The council announced the retirement of Deputy Director of Public Works Regan Rice, who has been with the city for 39 years.

Family says cops still not ‘aggressive enough’ regarding Brittany’s death

  • Written by Bob Rakow

Worth police have interviewed the two people who discovered the body of Brittany Wawrzyniak, but family members of the 18-year-old girl remain skeptical of the department’s interest in the case.
“I almost don’t know how to react,” said Earl Lane, Wawrzyniak’s step-grandfather. “I still don’t think they’re being aggressive enough.”
The family has planned a March 29 rally in Oak Lawn to bring attention to the circumstances surrounding Wawryzniak’s death and to prompt Worth police to ramp up their investigation. The rally is scheduled for noon at the Oak View Center, 4625 W. 110th St., and will include a presentation including all of the information the family has gathered so far.
Family and friends also plan to attend the April 1 Worth Village Board meeting to demand that police and community leaders focus on the case.
The police interviews were held March 5, four months after Wawrzyniak died near the Worth boat launch. Prosecutors said she was ejected from the backseat of an alleged drug dealer’s car after buying pills from him—an explanation that her family does not accept.
Worth police questioned Adam Wilczek and his girlfriend, Agnes Smyk, several days after the couple met with Wawrzyniak mother, Rebecca Tully, at an emotional meeting also attended by several other family members. The two-hour gathering was held at Lane’s Hickory Hills home.
Family members believe a story published in The Reporter about that meeting led police to interview Wilczek and Smyk. The Burbank couple shared with police the same information they provided family members at the Feb. 22 meeting, they said.
Police met with Smyk for about 30 minutes followed by a one-hour session with Wilczek.
“I told them the same thing I told you guys,” Wilczek said. “I told them I was a little disturbed that we were doing this four months after the fact. They didn’t want to answer my questions. Someone has got to push the investigation in the right direction.”
Wilczek said he asked police if they had interviewed residents who live on 115th Street across the street from Water’s Edge Golf Course, which abuts the boat launch. He also asked if they have reviewed footage from the camera at the nearby Worth Metra Station.
He added that police took a considerable amount of notes during his interview, but Smyk said the opposite was true during her interview.
Smyk, who said she was nervous during the meeting, was asked to describe the teenage boy who approached her car when she and Wilczek arrived the boat launch to walk their dogs. She also was asked to estimate how long Wawrzyniak was lying in the parking lot before the couple arrived.
Smyk and Wilczek told Tully that they spotted a group of teenage girls in the parking lot that appeared to be looking for something on the ground. A teenage boy approached their car and “starts feeding me a story,” Wilczek said.
Only one of the seven girls in the parking lot was kneeling next to Wawrzyniak. The other girls on the scene did not appear shaken by the tragedy, Smyk said.
“I was holding her hand,” Wilczek told Tully. He said he knelt at Wawrzyniak’s side for about three minutes until police and paramedics arrived.
Police would not reveal if they were interviewing others or offer any details about the status of the case, Smyk said.
Smyk informed Tully that she was she and Wilczek were interviewed by police.
The Feb. 22 meeting with Tully occurred after Smyk posted on Facebook that she and Wilczek discovered Wawrzyniak’s body when they arrived the Worth boat launch to walk their dogs.
The couple spotted a group of teenage girls in the parking lot that appeared to be looking for something on the ground, Wilczek said.
They said she met Eric Steven Johnson at the boat launch near 115th Street and Beloit Avenue, got into the back seat of his car and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam.
The prescription drug is used to treat panic and seizure disorders, according to medical experts.
Wawrzyniak’s family believes she faked a drug buy at the boat launch to arrange a fight between a friend and another girl.
The Worth police have confirmed that there were no drugs in Wawrzyniak’s system the night that she was died, the family said. But Tully remains critical of the way the police have handled the case.
Wawrzyniak began counting the pills while still in the backseat as Johnson drove away. She opened the door of the moving car, was ejected and struck the pavement, prosecutors said. She was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn less than one hour later.