By Jonathan De Leon
Two years ago, The Big Hurt Brewhouse opened in September of 2014 on the corner of Cermak and Oak Park with boosters claiming it was the next great sports mecca and tourist attraction.
Now it stands quiet, with the sign “closed for remodeling” taped on the doors outside.
Neither restaurant management nor owner Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox legend, could be reached.
Berwyn officials had no answers as well about the sudden closing.
Regina Thomas Dillard and Darlene Yoder have significant experience in restaurant business and critiqued the restaurant and what they believed is happening.
“There was very little community engagement, from what I could tell. I would also like to see baseball fan pre/post game promotions, focus on craft beers (which staff members seemed very uneducated on), large group/private events and better food options,” Regina said in a Yelp message.
Yoder Darlene has similar takes.
“I think this could become a destination for folks in the city just like Autre Monde (another Berwyn restaurant),” she said, via Facebook message. “But to get there I think Big Hurt needs to remodel its management team to make sure there is consistent quality and availability of menu items as well as consistently strong service, all of which was not reliable in my experience after they opened the first time.”
“The service issues were that we were not greeted by anyone and left to sit for an oddly long amount of time before being approached at all,” she said. “This happened several times. Then the food service was significantly slow every time.”
The 6,500 sq. ft. building was originally Berwyn National Bank and later American State Bank. The vacant property it was used mostly for occasional activities like bingo.
That restaurant was the idea of the Hall of Famer, Frank Thomas aka “The Big Hurt.” Thomas saw Berwyn not only as an opportunity to expand and brand his beer business but also to create a tourist attraction.
“The restaurant will also feature an outdoor beer garden and include 2,200 sq. ft. of second floor offices and a private suite,’’ according to a real estate journal at the time.
Thomas and his partners bought the building of business from the city for $200,000 and Berwyn officials bet on the restaurant becoming a big hit in the area in their continued effort for redevelopment. Original tax revenue projections for the restaurant were around “$105,000 in property taxes and annual sales tax,” according the Chicago Tribune report at the time.
Renovations needed to turn the bank into a functional restaurant included structural repairs like fixing leaks in the dome, complying with city codes by replacing doors and windows, and painting. The cost was over $123,000 in Tax Incremental Finance (TIF) money according to Berwyn public records.
TIF is a public financing method that is used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects in many countries.