Two Black-owned businesses, the Juan and Only Events and Batter & Berries breakfast cafe, are teaming up to launch The Bruce restaurant and event space, which will be located at 5924 W. Chicago Ave.
The existing building would be turned into a sit-down restaurant and the vacant lot to the west of it will become an outdoor patio. The Bruce will function as a restaurant in mornings and mid-afternoons, and as event space in late afternoons and evenings.
The owners of the two businesses said they wanted to create something that would benefit existing residents and bring customers from both sides of Austin Boulevard to the Chicago Avenue corridor.
Because the property is within 125 feet of a residential area, the developers had to apply for a variation with the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals. The board considered the request during its March 19 meeting. While some commissioners had questions about the particulars, they took no issue with the concept and unanimously approved the request.
Batter & Berries was founded in 2012 by Dr. Tanya Richardson and her husband, Craig Richardson. According to its website, the couple wanted to “add an eclectic world class restaurant to the vibrant Chicago brunch scene.” The cafe is located in Lincoln Park, at 2748 N. Lincoln Ave. According to Eater Chicago, in addition to the Austin partnership, the couple are planning to open a second location in south suburban Olympia Fields.
Juan Teague, who grew up in Austin, founded Juan and Only Events in 2009, organizing several community festivals and smaller events. She told the zoning board that she wanted to open something that the Chicago Avenue corridor was missing, that would bring Chicagoans and Oak Parkers to Austin, and “and stop the narrative that the West Side is bad.”
Working with University of Chicago students and the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA), she looked at community needs and found that Austin didn’t have many sit-down restaurants and no full-service banquet facility with an on-site kitchen.
“We listened to residents, and they just wanted somewhere where they can eat, in the neighborhood, because they typically have to go to Oak Park for that,” Teague said.
She said that she reached out to Batter and Berries, because it was “great food, they also know my brand, from attending various events, and they have a diverse crowd.”
She said she named the business after her father, who passed away in 2016.
Adekunle Onayami, the project architect and a AAABNA member, said that the building, which used to be office space, has been vacant for 10 years and that corridor business owners welcome Teague’s plans.
“I know the business community is very interested in seeing this particular business situated here,” he said.