By Ben Meyerson
Annie's Beef, one of River Forest's few fast-food outposts, is closing Saturday after more than 25 years in business.
The rising rent and increasingly murky future of their storefront at the intersection of Lake Street and Lathrop Avenue in River Forest convinced owners Simon and Agnes Chung to suddenly call it a day this week.
"I've been here for 26 years, but my lease expired, and the village wants to develop here," Simon said Tuesday morning. "We love the people, and we tried to do the best service for our community and give them the best food."
The block Annie's calls home has been targeted as the site of one of River Forest's biggest development projects in years, a multimillion-dollar mix of new retail and condos that would include a branch of Forest Park National Bank.
The ground beneath Annie's, however, is contaminated with dry-cleaning chemicals from one of the neighboring businesses, River Forest Cleaners.
While the contamination isn't an immediate hazard to anyone eating in Annie's, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said the chemicals could be harmful for people exposed for long periods of time — like Annie's employees.
So at the EPA's request, River Forest Cleaners' former owner paid to install a system to divert the chemical fumes in November last year.
In December, the village approved a $1.9-million subsidy to a developer planning to knock down Annie's and the block's other businesses.
Though it's not clear when that project would get started, the Chungs decided to close shop rather than operate under a cloud of uncertainty. Already around the village, some people wondered if Annie's were even still open.
Simon Chung said he's ready to say thank you and goodbye to River Forest on Saturday, the last day they'll be open.
"We spent very happy times serving the people," Simon said. "We appreciated the community. God bless all our community and the people — especially our kids."
Staff reporter Megan Dooley contributed to this report.