Poor Phil's restaurant takes on major expansion in Oak Park

Longstanding seafood bar adding seating, kitchen space following Marion Street upgrade

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Poor Phil's — a popular seafood restaurant and bar on South Marion Street in Oak Park — is expanding its footprint, which will eventually mean about 100 more seats and a kitchen four times as productive.

For years, the shell bar has rented a little storefront just north of its main space at 139 S. Marion St., which has remained mostly underused for the past decade, partly as a storeroom, according to Dennis Murphy, who co-owns the restaurant with his wife Bunny.

But they have expanded their kitchen into half of that space and have now set about adding new kitchen equipment that will eventually quadruple their output. As a result, they plan to add some extra breakfast items, such as pancakes and waffles, and possibly more dinner items, too.

The updated kitchen features are about a month from being ready. They will eventually use the other half of the empty storefront to add about 50 more seats sometime next year and another 50 outdoor seats along South Marion because of the recently expanded sidewalks.

The restaurant has applied some other cosmetic changes as well, adding new flooring, painting the walls and installing new TVs. All told, the price tag will end up reaching six figures.

Murphy said they've been thinking about doing the work for years. But the village's recent investment of $5.4 million to add brick streets and bluestone sidewalks gave them the extra kick in the pants to move forward.

"Once it was decided that the street was going to be redone, we figured we might as well take advantage of that and do this remodeling at the same time," he said. "It was kind of like a little nudge to do something that probably should have been done a few years back."

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TIFfany from OP  

Posted: March 14th, 2012 5:51 AM

Laughing, you've shown yourself to be economically illiterate (which is no surprise since the Village Board seems to be as well!) So please, by all means, enjoy the pretty brick pavers and heated sidewalks -- "Oooh, Pretty!!" The adults, however, will be in the other room discussing how our tax dollars should be invested more wisely so that the answer to everything isn't raising property taxes. How about attracting a Target? A Costco? Or any other store we all drive to currently?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 9:52 PM

Laughing, you know what isn't done, paying for it.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 8:33 PM

The sewers were 100 plus years old as are many in OP. You have to start somewhere. Glad they did N and S Marion. It looks great and will bring a new vibrancy that wasn't there before. Continue to bicker about everything. Your pure political rants get you no where. Its done, it looks great and the evidence is clear.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 8:18 PM

@Laughing. The answer to your question is no. Of course your question is actually not valid - did you know, true story, that businesses actually invest all of the time without TIF money? True. Reread the second to last paragraph in the article and Murphy says that his investment, which I'm guessing is $150,000, has been on his mind for years. And it only took $5.4 million to get that investment!!! In the meantime, alleys and streets elsewhere in OP crumble. Good thing that winter was mild!


Posted: March 13th, 2012 7:26 PM

The new Opera Club is a big investment and development. Was TIF dollars used for it? Hopefully. Le Bella, Green Line wheels, Salon 212, Oak Park Jewelers, etc, etc,...

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 7:20 PM

The 2005 Greater Downtown Master Plan (GDMP) determined that $68.8M is needed in public investment as leverage for $461.7M in private investment (7/1 investment ratio) for 22 identified key and catalyst projects. Pope claimed at the recent March 5 board meeting that every dollar of public investment made so far in the GDMP area has returned 6-7 dollars in private investment, but did not provide an evidence for such a claim.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 6:52 PM

@Enuf. I believe that IL rebates 1% of their 6.25% tax. And on the 2.25% for food - IL also gives 1% to OP.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 6:14 PM

Enuf - sound to me like the private side investment includes product/goods inventory.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 5:15 PM

So by joke parks logic, the more we spend the more we will make back.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 4:29 PM

@Unfortunately ... It is my understanding that as of Jan. 1, 2012, sales tax for general merchandise in Oak Park is 9.250%; consisting of state (6.25%), Cook County home rule (1.00%), RTA (1.00%) and Oak Park home rule (1.00%). Source: IL Dept. of Revenue > Tax Rate Database > Sales Tax > Tax Rate Finder > Oak Park.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 3:09 PM

UIC Bus School Avg Starting Salary: $66,765.00 %u2022 In-State-Tuition: $18,584.00 %u2022 Out-of-State Tuition: $30,582.00 http://www.princetonreview.com/schools/business/BizBasics.aspx?iid=1011121 Univ of Chicago Booth School Avg Starting Salary: $108,045.00 Tuition: $50,900.00 http://www.princetonreview.com/schools/business/BizBasics.aspx?iid=1011108

Laughing Has Me Laughing  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 3:03 PM

Laughing, I would advise you to stop typing. You are only stripping away any credibility your prior comments may have had.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 2:59 PM

@Enuf. Loved your financial analysis, but I'm pretty sure that OP receives 2% of the local sales tax - remember, that's another "bonus" of being a Home Rule community!

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 2:50 PM

David Pope claims the S. Marion St. project will return $7 in private investment for every $1 in public investment. This means the project's $5.7M public cost is expected to return $39.9M in private investment. The Poor Phil's addition will be added to the private investment column, after deducting for the closing of D. Michael Floral Design, leaving about $39.8M to be realized. Note: Oak Park only receives a 1% portion of the overall 9.25% local sales tax.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 2:28 PM

How about no school vs. MIT? There are plenty of people who didnt attend college yet they still have jobs.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 2:26 PM

How about How about Northeastern vs NW then?

ET phoned home from Forest Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 2:23 PM

The bar itself is great, but my hope is that with a new kitchen, the food will improve!

Laughing Has Me Laughing  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 2:17 PM

I have never such an unique "analysis" of the ROI on a UofC versus a UIC education before. The problem is you are undoubtedly serious. Heck, UofI President Hogan is getting his butt kicked right now because the Urbana-Champaign campus faculty want absolutely nothing to do with his efforts to use UIUC's academic reputation to increase the status of the UIC and Springfield campuses. Laughing, the joke is on you....


Posted: March 13th, 2012 1:43 PM

So you are in favor of more taxes? Weather it be sales or property? The ROI in a reasonable amount of time is not a problem. When businesses stay and people shop money is generated. Whats the problem. They fixed 100 year old sewers. I think we have time.

This is why OP has no ROI from OP  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 1:38 PM

By George, I think Laughing's got it! Yes, If you invest $10 in TIF funding, then that investment must yield more than $10 in new, incremental taxes over a reasobale period(that why it's called tax INCREMENT financing). If it doesn't yield incremental tax revenue in a reasonable period of time, then it's a bad investment. Yes, this sets a significant goal/hurdle for projects. If you can be taught, perhaps the Board can be as well! We should all demand this approach be applied in OP.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 1:18 PM

Your logic would mean only if we spend 10 dollars of tax money on improvements then we need to make 20 dollars back?


Posted: March 13th, 2012 12:07 PM

The only way a ROI comes out positive is when you invest dollars in a something and the dollars raised are HIGHER then they were before. Those dollars are TAXES.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 11:31 AM

@Laughing (aka, "Silly") - no one is advocating to "PAY MORE TAXES" - except for the VMA village board. How so? Because they spend millions on projects which have a negative return - while ignoring alleys, streets (Garfield Blvd is a 3rd world street!), sewers, etc! Yes, because of their over-paying for "prettiness" - they will have to raise taxes to do what the citizens want. Why do you REFUSE to understand ROI and breakeven analysis? Coincidentally, so does a majority on the board.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 10:50 AM

Lets get this straight murtagh. You want people(commercial and residential)property owners to PAY MORE TAXES? You should be so lucky if TAXES DON'T GO UP and it looks like Oak Park is subsidizing some for the good of all. Im sure you were one barking out that the Village should pay for new sewers in NE OP? Look at this (if the taxes don't go up exponentially)as using TIF dollars to improve the community while NOT raising taxes. I know you are in favor of higher taxes! LoL


Posted: March 13th, 2012 8:50 AM

@laughing, your ignorance is showing again. or maybe it is your uic degree?

TIFfany from PROP  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 6:38 AM

Laughing, the problem isn't with us all not wanting"good development and design for our community," the problem is that we overpay for things which have no hope of increasing tax revenue (which is what TIF dollars are supposed to do) in an amount that makes the investment worthwhile. So, we're left with "art for art's sake" which is a lovely idea, but a terrible way to run a village. But, apparently some folks like you don't understand basic math and economics, and support this approach.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 1:17 AM

But you know that it WONT happen? Right? Why so opposed to good development and good design for our community?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 13th, 2012 12:54 AM

Laughing, and then she clicked her heels three times and she was back in Kansas.


Posted: March 13th, 2012 12:10 AM

So if I spend $200K and go to U of C and get a good paying job or if I go to U I C and pay $ 80K for a good paying job. Was it worth it? YES. Just ask the graduates. If you dont think the improvements will add value to all the commercial and residential building in this district, you are crazy. These improvements are just that. The values of the buildings and homes will go up, hence bring in more tax revenue. The business will attract more customers which in turn pay more in taxes.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 9:53 PM

Oops, misread. Well it was funny for a moment and now I have a new name for S Marion.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 9:51 PM

This is better than Thursday night tv when it was "must see". Pleasantville a "blighted" area? Oh dear Laughing.... You and I should go for a drive and see a little of the world outside of DTOP.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 7:35 PM

@Laughing, once again yo show your ignorance at just about everything. Places like University of Chicago go to great pains to track their graduates and use the data to attract new students as well as donors to the endowment. I would find it hard to attract a buyer to my home and the crumbling streets and alleys by showing them two block of N and S. Marion and tell them about the future SRO and Aldi on Madison.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 5:13 PM

@Laughing. I believe that the SOLE purpose of TIF funds is for economic development in a blighted area. Your logic, and I'm semi-guessing, is that ANY project or even something like salting the streets is eligible. That's not true. As pointed out by 2:20 post, ROI (do you know what that stands for?) and break-even analysis are paramount. Was this done? Provide a link? If you can't, then you have the equivalent of social workers and attorneys working as project mgrs and fin'l analysts. Not smart

TIFfany (Not Murtagh, just an admirer) from PROP (People's Republic of Oak Park)  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 4:28 PM

@Laughing: If it were fixing a road or doing basic infrastructure, I'd grant you that ROI is hard to calculate. On vanity projects such as the Pleasant District which are largely discretionary....well, it's only those that want to hide that claim it can't be measured. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it...but if you refuse to measure it and prevent others from doing so, you're the VMA. Bob. Weave. Cry foul. Self Aggrandize. Raise taxes. Repeat.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 3:40 PM

Keeping a district vibrant with shoppers and businesses that stay is what its all about. Adding residential to the mix and a place that people are attracted too are keys to any destination. Its sounds like Poor Phils is doing a "major" expansion due to the fact that the Village has taken the steps to do what I just mentioned brings people here and keeps them here. You scratch my back and I scratch yours.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 3:35 PM

unfortunately sounds like murtagh or O'shea. Financial analysis is what they are all about. In government there is not always a financial return that is measurable for every decision that is made? How much do we get back for paving any road or laying any sidewalk ? How much do govt make off of plowing and salting the streets? What about cutting down or not cutting down trees? Its like education. How does one know whether their $200K education from UoC is worth it?

Breakfast at TIFfany's from OP  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 2:20 PM

@Ray Johnson: So, how much in incremental tax dollars has the vanity project generated? Will the TIF investment in brick pavers be paid back in 20 years or less? Doubtful. (btw, your "happy talk" about lobby renovation is nice, but actual return-on-taxpayer investment should be the TIF successmetric!)


Posted: March 12th, 2012 1:14 PM

That's great news. I'm allergic to asphalt, so I can't eat at restaurants that front on traditionally paved roads. I wish Oak Park would put brick streets in front of more of its restaurants. Meanwhile I'm looking forward to the remodeled Poor Phil's.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 12:20 PM

@Laughing (aka, "Silly"), no one is calling for gravel streets and, in truth, I don't know the actual annual sales of Poor Phil's, but my question is, simply, does ANY ONE EVER CONSIDER performing a financial analysis of these multi-million dollar projects in OP? Remember, it was the same "build it and they will come!" mentality which led to building and replacement of the OP Mall. Would OP have turned in to Gary, IN if they did nothing? I suppose in your mind it would have.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 12:07 PM

Lets make all the roads gravel in Oak Park. That way it will be really cheap and it wont cost us anything. Then people and businesses will move out of Oak Park and ALL the taxes will be really low. Paging Gary Indiana.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 12:00 PM

@OP Resident. Did you give ANY consideration to a genuine cost/benefit calculation for your comment? Let's say that Poor Phil's doubles sales (a remote possibility to say the least) and thus doubled OP's share of sales tax revenue. Next, they average $5,000 in daily sales. That would provide $125 in daily sales tax revenue to OP - $45,625 per year. Double it and OP receives about $50K more per year - all for millions spent! This "logic" extended to Lake St. will quickly bankrupt OP!!!

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 11:29 AM

OPRF Dad - that's a really good point. The lights make a huge difference.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 10:54 AM

Pretty bad sign if it's the street rather than the food that gets people to go to a restaurant. In this man's opinion, it isn't the cobblestones or the blue slate that makes the difference - it's the lights strung 15 feet up. Gives it a fun feeling. Those probably cost $150. Try them on Harrison - they'll have the same effect. And in case anyone isn't paying attention, Marion north of the tracks is already starting to crumble.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 7:59 AM

Proof! Not only could they survive the construction (Something that many OPers said was impossible) but now they are going to be expanding and doing bigger and better things and they say that the construction is a BIG PART of that decision. SO clearly these brick street makeovers are working. N/S Marion are by far the 2 best looking streets in OP right now. Continue the work down Lake St. BRING OP BACK!

Violet Aura  

Posted: March 10th, 2012 3:14 PM

@Sarah: Yeah but they're too busy getting sloshed! Beer goggles: what a concept!

MikeM from Berwyn  

Posted: March 10th, 2012 2:18 PM

Poor Phils is my favorite place in OP. The food is good bar food with bonus seafood emphasis. But I go there for the beer selection. The micro/craft brew selection at Poor Phils is on par with the best beer bars anywhere. Well curated knowledgeable selection constantly rotating. The food is fine but that's not why PP is great.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: March 10th, 2012 9:30 AM

Love Poor Phil's. It is definitely time for a bit of a make over inside. Beer selection is fabulous! Keep that up, but I do agree with others that the food could be better. Should work on that!

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 10th, 2012 8:35 AM

Since the street renovations, the Carleton Hotel has completed a renovation of their lobby as well -- all great news for the Pleasant District. Taken together, the hotel/restaurants/banquet hall at this corner play an important role in Oak Parks economic success.

Velna from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 7:44 PM

Looking forward to great eggs benedict for breakfasts in the expanded outdoor seating!

oak parker from oak park  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 6:57 PM

Yeah, the food is mediocre, except for those expensive garlic crab claws which are delicious! Also, they have a great margarita and the best terrace for people watching in the village! It's just fun to sit out there in the summertime. I'll be out there with my margarita and my overpriced crab claws!

Sarah from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 6:07 PM

I don't get it. The food there is exceedingly mediocre -- yet people must come if they're going to expand. There are so many other restaurants in Oak Park that offer much tastier food and better service -- at comparable prices. Try Deliah's Kitchen just west of the Lake Theater for a real treat at lunch or breakfast.


Posted: March 9th, 2012 6:05 PM

Wouldnt it have made sense to do it while business was slow during street construction? Looooooooooooooooong overdue!!

Doug Deuchler from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 5:49 PM

YES! This is great news. It shows us that Poor Phil's has survived the dry spell of the construction and they're back in business!

Sarah Corbin from OP  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 4:42 PM

Yay! Way to go. So great to hear.

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