The proposed site of TNT Restaurant in Austin. | Google Maps

Taneka Daniels, of Blue Island, said that there is broad community support for her plans to build a restaurant with a rooftop patio at 5405-11 W. Madison St. in Austin. 

During a May 21 virtual meeting of the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals, she said that she wants to invest in the community her family hails from and create job opportunities. Daniels said that she’s gotten support from local businesses, as well as from the South Austin Neighborhood Association (SANA). 

But members of SANA disputed that claim, saying they were not aware of Daniels’s plans until the zoning board meeting. Members of the group said they were concerned about customers parking in the neighborhood, the noise level from music potentially playing on the rooftop and that the establishment, which would be called TNT Restaurant, might serve alcohol. 

During the zoning board meeting, Daniels said that alcohol will be served inside the restaurant, only to walk back her statement during a follow-up interview, saying that she was still trying to decide whether she would serve alcohol and that she hasn’t applied for a liquor license.

Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th), whose ward includes the restaurant, said that Daniels never told him TNT Restaurant might serve alcohol and emphasized that he would bring any liquor license application for community review before it gets approved.

Daniel has worked as an accountant and a real estate agent and has some prior restaurant experience, she said. She purchased the building in October 2019 and went before the zoning board because a rooftop patio requires a special use permit.

“I wanted to purchase in the Austin area, because my family grew up there,” Daniels told the zoning board. “I wanted to kind of restore the community and hire some employees right within the community to bring back beauty to the Austin community.”

Daniels said that she wanted to bring a more formal dining experience to Austin. While she said she didn’t want to share too many details, because she wanted it to be a surprise for the community, she said that the menu will include “some healthy options.”

“I don’t eat meat, so there will be some plant-based options,” Daniels added.

During the zoning board meeting, Daniels said that TNT restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Wednesday, and from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Thursday through Sunday. The patio will close an hour earlier.  She said that there will be music inside the restaurant and that she was planning to apply for permits to allow her to play music on the patio. 

During the zoning board meeting, Daniels said she had support from nearby businesses and from SANA, which runs the Veteran Peace Garden directly west of the restaurant, at 5413 W. Madison St. She said that that she “spoke to the ladies that maintained the lot and they were excited that I purchased [the building].”

Terry Redmond, SANA’s treasurer, who watched the meeting livestream, said in a follow-up interview that, while Daniels did speak to SANA president Cassandra Norman shortly after buying the property, she didn’t share any information about her plans. Redmond said she became aware of the proposed restaurant after reading a letter Daniels sent out  to nearby property owners as part of the special use application process.

Norman confirmed that Daniels spoke to her and Liz Abunaw, founder of Forty Acres Fresh Market, during the Oct. 4, 2019 pop-up event the market held at the garden, but she said could not recall Daniels mentioning any detailed plans for her business. 

“A lot of neighbors are concerned with people double-parking,” Redmond said, adding that she was concerned that, if TNT Restaurant does end up serving liquor, customers “would start using the alley for … stuff.”

Daniels confirmed that she didn’t do any outreach to residents beyond sending out the required letters.  

Redmonds argued that Daniels could have done more. 

“[Daniels] never talked to the residents, never had a sit-down,” Terry Redmond said.

Tina Augustus, the current head of Austin Chamber of Commerce, said that Daniels never reached out to the chamber and that she was unaware of Daniels’ plan until contacted by Austin Weekly News. Daniels said she only reached out to neighboring businesses. 

The zoning board unanimously approved Daniels’ special use application. She said that she hopes to have TNT Restaurant open no later than winter. 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...