Iconic Geneva eatery Mill Race Inn to close

GENEVA – The iconic Mill Race Inn, an historic Geneva landmark on the Fox River, will serve its last meal on Sunday night, owner Charles Roumeliotis said.

"I am devastated," Roumeliotis said. "I never thought this place – especially this place with the food and the view – would close. I don't know what to say."

Forty-five people will be put out of work due to the closure, he said.

Roumeliotis, 72, of Geneva, said the 400-seat restaurant at 4 E. State St. was hurt by a double whammy of two floods and a slow economy. The 1.3-acre property with the business is for sale for $2.2 million, he said, but the restaurant could also be sold separately.

"There is no business," Roumeliotis said. "The economy has hurt us a lot."

The restaurant will be open at 10 a.m. as usual on Sunday and plans are for it to close at 9 p.m., but Roumeliotis said they might close early if business is slow.

The Mill Race Inn began as a blacksmith shop in 1842 owned by Julius and Edward Alexander, according to the history of the property. In 1933, sister Ann and Marjorie Forsythe turned the smithy into a tearoom and called it the Mill Race Inn, taking its name from a grist mill upstream where water diverted from the river turned the mill wheels, called a "mill race."

Ray C. Johns bought the restaurant in 1946, operating it for three generations. His daughter ran the business after that, adding a waterfront boardwalk and distinct venues inside called the Gazebo, The Mill Grill, The Duck Inn and Mallards.

Roumeliotis and his son, George, bought the restaurant in 2004. They had owned Horwath's in Elmwood Park for 26 years, also a landmark. They had hoped to transfer their interest in running a landmark restaurant to the Mill Race Inn.

Now, Roumeliotis said, he will take time to reflect.

Community Development Director Dick Untch said the business would be missed.

"Certainly the site is an iconic historic site in the city," Untch said. "Genevans and individuals in surrounding communities enjoyed the ambiance of the restaurant and its location on the Fox River. It is a business operation that will be missed."

Still, Untch said, the property is uniquely positioned in the city right next to the river.

"I just have to believe some other use or some other business will establish itself there ... or some alternative use will come along," Untch said. "It's a beautiful property."

The Mill Race Inn also served as the weekly meeting place for the Geneva Lions Club and Geneva Rotary Club. Officials of both clubs have canceled this week's meetings while they try to regroup.

The Lions met at noon on Mondays for lunch and a meeting. The Rotary at 7 a.m. Tuesday for breakfast.

"It's a nice place that has a lot of character to it," said Lions Club member Michael Alexenko of St. Charles. 

The club met there at noon every Monday for lunch and a meeting.

"As time was going on the last three years, the parking lot was a lot less occupied at lunchtime," Alexenko said. "I'd think that was kind of strange, I can find a place to park without using the valet."

Rotary President Gordon Hard said the restaurant was not open for breakfast, but made a special arrangement with the Rotary since the late 1980s.

"I think it's one of the finest establishments along the Fox River," Hard said. "It always has been. I'm just hoping it transfers to another owner who will keep the tradition."