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Maple Tree Inn receives financial incentives, plans to open in January

Maple Tree Inn is getting ready for a January opening. Owners Katie and Erich Wennberg told Homewood village board members they are busy working with two consultants to get the restaurant ready for diners.

Maple Tree Inn is getting ready for a January opening.
 
Owners Katie and Erich Wennberg told Homewood village board members they are busy working with two consultants to get the restaurant ready for diners. They have not announced an official opening date, but promised it would be sometime in mid-January.
 
During a presentation before the board Tuesday, Dec. 10, Katie Wennberg told trustees “the final specs are ready to go.” 
 
The longtime Blue Island landmark is moving to 18849 Dixie Highway, the former location of the The Cottage on Dixie restaurant. 

Trustees unanimously approved three items for the Wennbergs at the meeting.  Trustee Larry Burnson was absent.

The village has agreed to give the couple $538,000 from the Southgate TIF funds to help finance the $1.9 million renovation to the building. The funds will be paid out through 2024, when the TIF district expires. 

According to village documents, necessary renovations include kitchen repairs and upgrade, building equipment and a redecoration of the interior to reflect their New Orleans style. 

A payment of $150,000 is expected to be approved at the next board meeting with another $100,000 issued when Maple Tree Inn receives its occupancy permit next month. The rest will be paid out incrementally over four years.

In addition, the board agreed to a liquor license for the restaurant, and supported a Class 8 tax incentive through Cook County that allows real estate to be assessed at 10 percent of market value for 10 years, 15 percent for the 11th year and 20 percent in the 12th year. 
 
It can be renewed during the 10th year with the board’s approval. The incentive aims to make Cook County more attractive to businesses considering locations in other counties or in Indiana, where property taxes are lower.

Homewood’s projected sales tax revenue from Maple Tree Inn over the ten-year life of the Class 8 is estimated at $821,229. That includes both the 1 percent state sales tax and the 2 percent places for eating tax.
 
“I can’t say how many people have stopped and asked me when you’re opening. People are really excited,” Trustee Barbara Dawkins told the Wennbergs.  
 
Trustee Lisa Purcell thanked the couple “for investing in our community. People are thrilled that you’ll be here.”
 
Erich Wennberg said Mayor Richard Hofeld first approached them 10 years ago about opening a second Maple Tree Inn in Homewood to complement its location in Blue Island. They always took a pass.
 
Then a major fire in August 2018 destroyed the restaurant and their living quarters upstairs leaving the Wennbergs without a home and a business.
 
Erich said two weeks after the fire he called Hofeld. They discussed how Homewood could work with the couple to get a restaurant site for them.
 
“It just been a godsend for us to come to Homewood,” Katie said.
 
The Wennbergs describe the Maple Tree Inn as “polished casual” serving Cajun and creole specialty dishes. They plan to be open for dinner Wednesdays through Sundays.  Eventually, they will open to serve Sunday brunch.

The Wennbergs retained all of the staff from the Blue Island restaurant but plan to hire additional bussers, cooks, food runners and wait staff. 
 
The Wennbergs said they plan to be active in the community.
 
“This is our community now,” Erich said. 
 
They thanked the trustees and village staff for their efforts in support of the Maple Tree Inn and the work down behind the scenes to get the restaurant opened.

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