The Scene

Seasonal mobile bar could be on tap for downtown Cary; existing business has concerns

Neighboring business argues outdoor bar could ‘steal’ from other establishments in the area

Maple Tree Tap owners are looking to create a similar mobile bar as their McHenry location to downtown Cary.

Maple Tree Tap wants to expand its business by providing a mobile bar in downtown Cary, but neighboring restaurant owners said the proposal could hurt existing businesses.

Maple Tree Tap owners Dillon and Michelle Streit and Brian and Jodie Atkins proposed to have the free-standing kiosk on Spring Street to take advantage of Cary’s social district, which allows open alcohol containers in the downtown area.

The kiosk also could be a hub for entertainment by collaborating with local restaurants for pop-up events, booking live music and entertainment, partnering with food trucks and working alongside existing events such as Cary Cruise Nights, Michelle Streit said.

Italian restaurant 750° Cucina Rustica owner Sallie LoBue wrote an email to village officials opposing the location of the kiosk, saying it would be too close to an outdoor tent Cucina is looking to install on Spring Street.

The tent would house live entertainment and an outdoor bar, an investment that exceeds $60,000 for this summer alone, LoBue said.

“It would be no different than a proposal to park a pizza truck in front of Uncle Jerry’s or set up an outdoor grill to sling burgers in front of Tracks,” LoBue said in the email. “To now allow another business to replace what we are currently doing by parking a mobile bar less than 6 feet from a downtown business outdoor bar and taking over the live music in the area will essentially be stealing from existing businesses.”

Maple Tree Tap owners opened a similar shipping container-style structure located at Miller Point Park in McHenry called All Marine’s Retro Rentals & Retreat. The bar is near the river and “significantly” removed from other businesses, Trustee Rick Walworth said.

Walworth agreed that the proposed location would be too close to existing bars but said it would be “negligent” to the community if they denied the project.

“That’s not how you grow downtown businesses,” he said.

Dillon Streit said the McHenry location has “brought more than we’ve taken away” by drawing in more people to the area and boosting nearby restaurant sales since the bar does not sell food.

“No one’s ever actually said that to us or come to a meeting and spoken against anything that we’re doing because we’re truly collaborative,” Michelle Streit said.

Another potential location could be at nearby downtown Depot Plaza, construction on which is expected to start this year. The plaza will be located on the south side of the train tracks, where the former train depot building once stood. The village also will make streetscape improvements to Spring Street, known as Alfresco Alley, starting in May.

Rotary Park could be a better fit, Mayor Mark Kownick said. The village-owned park recently added an outdoor pavilion and could be a great space to host entertainment, he said.

“You’ve got a beautiful setting there,” he said. “[It would be] bringing something new to a different area of town that no one is using.”

The owners, who also own All Marine Services in Cary, are open to having their business at Rotary Park but envisioned the mobile bar as a visual attraction to Metra train riders if located downtown.

“That could potentially bring people off the train that usually would never come to Cary,” Dillon Streit said.

The hours for the alcohol kiosk would vary, Michelle Streit said. At the McHenry location, the bar typically is open until 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. The structure could be removed during the winter months when it is closed, Dillon Streit said.

The Village Board only has discussed the project so far. No vote has been scheduled.

It is possible the owners could have the structure ready within the next few months, Dillon Streit said.

“[We aim to] just make grabbing a quick drink when you’re outside for these events pretty easy, simple, fun to walk around,” Michelle Streit said. “Not to take away from anybody, only to add to it and hopefully to collaborate on many levels.”

Michelle Meyer

Michelle is a reporter for the Northwest Herald that covers Crystal Lake, Cary, Lakewood, Prairie Grove, Fox River Grove and McHenry County College