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Brandt's Battles to Stay in Business

Scheduled to go up for auction Monday, Brandt's gets an extension from the bank but remains in foreclosure. The Palatine restaurant still is more than $700,000 behind in mortgage payments.

Scattered around the bar, patrons sip on beers and talk sports while the owner of Brandt’s Little Café struggles to find a way to stay open.

“I love the place, I don’t know what I’d do if I had to get rid of it,” said Brandt’s owner, George Grisco, “It’d probably kill me.”

According to court documents, as of May 31, 2011, Grisco is more than $700,000 behind in mortgage payments.

“Last I heard it was little over $700,000 but it’s probably over $850,000 now,” Grisco said, “They just keep slapping charges on me.”

In foreclosure, the Palatine restaurant was set to go on the auction block Monday, Oct. 15, to be sold to the highest bidder.

Although the restaurant’s 65-year history appeared to be coming to a close, Grisco said his lawyer was able to get an extension from the bank to push the auction date to January 2013.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” said, John Konuk, Grisco’s son-in-law, the general manager of Brandt’s. “The extension gives us until the end of January, so we will be in business until then,” Konuk said, “After January I don’t know what will happen.”

A staple in the community, Brandt’s Little Café first opened in Palatine in 1947 and the family owned and operated restaurant has been on the corner of Northwest Highway and Quentin Road since 1968.

In March, Brandt's finished second in voting by Palatine Patch readers as being the best place in town to get a burger. In August it finished second in voting for best fries in Patch's Reader's Choice contest.

“It’s my livelihood,” Grisco said, “I’ve dedicated my life to this place.” Grisco said he bought the building from his wife’s parents in the 1980s and has run Brandt’s ever since. 

“We’re just too small and outdated, taxes are killing us,” Grisco said, “We are not making anything right now, we’re just trying to survive.”

Grisco said he took out a $500,000 credit line with an interest rate of 8.25 percent from Mt. Prospect National Bank in 2006, one year before Mt. Prospect National Bank merged with Midwest Bank. 

In December 2009, the loan was renewed and increased to $700,000; Grisco said six months later, Midwest Bank went under. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) took over Midwest Bank in May 2010, all its assets, including Grisco’s credit line were sold to First Merit Bank.

“I had a line of credit with the bank and that bank went under,” Grisco said, “Another one took over and they haven’t been very cooperative for the last year and a half or so.” Grisco said, “They don’t even want my mortgage anymore so I’m stuck.”

According to court documents, First Merit started foreclosure proceedings on the property at 807 W. Baldwin in June 2011.

Grisco said the bank is holding the mortgage with the original line of credit. “The bank is trying to take the property knowing it’s valued much higher than what I owe,” Grisco said.

Now, Grisco has until the end of January 2013 to come up with the money. Grisco joked, “It’d be nice if I won the lottery,” but in all seriousness, the owner said he’s doing everything he can to keep Brandt’s open.

“We are working on a few different options right now,” Grisco said, “I’m sure not going to give the place away.”

Konuk said he doesn’t want the family or the village to lose the restaurant. “We’re not looking to sell,” Konuk said, “We’re just trying to get through the tough economic time.”

Grisco said he is talking to both local and non-local investors, “We may develop the area, we may move the establishment, or we may stay put.” Grisco said, “We never know, we got to live day by day here.”

Inside the gray stone building on recent day, Grisco sits alone in a booth in a small nook of Brandt’s, just off of the bar. With the sounds of cheers from sports fans in the background, Grisco stares down at a pile of paperwork full of bank statements and court documents.

“They don’t know the suffering and struggling we go through,” said Grisco, “Some days are good, so days are bad.”

As the possibility of closing down and leaving Palatine for good becomes more and more likely, Grisco said he doesn’t want to worry his customers, especially the regulars.

The owner said, “A lot of people would miss it but after time we would just be forgotten a issue.” Konuk added, “I think people would be upset but you really only know that until after the business is gone.”

Larry October 15, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Sounds like the "Big City Thinking" Powers that be want someone Else to get the land. Oh- Praise Be them Kickbacks!
Catherine October 15, 2012 at 12:46 PM
This is so sad...such an icon of our childhood. I wish someone would step up and help George out. I wish I could.....my mom and dad used to go there in the 50s...it was so popular for so long. Sad sad sad......
JJ Hawk October 15, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Seems like that property would be a perfect place for a Chase Bank branch. That area is underserverd, with the nearest branch being 3/4 of a mile away.
Neal October 15, 2012 at 02:44 PM
I hate to be the naysayer here, but who's fault exactly is it that they are 700,000 Plus in debt? Obviously it's not a successful business. I cannot blame the economy if my house payment isn't being paid, when you take out the loan, it is YOUR responsibility to fulfill your obligation. As far as I am concerned this is a no brainer. Icon or not, they are responsible to pay their debts..
Neal October 15, 2012 at 02:45 PM
On another note, If they are letting it go into foreclosure they are no longer paying the bank, but yet they are still open and making money, where's that cash going? What ever happened to self accountability?
upton October 15, 2012 at 02:56 PM
I agree with both of Neals's posts. That being said I do enjoy a stop at Brandt's once or twice a year and would hate to see it go.
Neal October 15, 2012 at 03:18 PM
I would hate to see it go as well, and thier burgers are pretty good. But then again 10 bucks plus for a burger and fries? It should be spectacular. Please don't get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of small local business in Palatine, but they need to play by the same rules I do.
Beth October 15, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Totally agree with you! I love the place too, but as Beretta used to say "if you can't do the time, then don't do the crime". I'm tired of people / businesses over extending themselves and then putting the blame on others. People have to be RESPONSIBLE for the OWN actions!
Beth October 15, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Yep, exactly. As a business owner myself, I have to pay all my bills and be accountable. That is what is so frustrating, people and companies just letting their responsibilities fall to the side. I tired of paying for others "mistakes". And agree - while the burgers are great - price is a bit high especially when Donkey's burgers are just as good and they have $5.00 burgers every Wednesday!
Elizabeth Christie October 15, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Brandt's is a great place to go and have a nice homemade meal..As for the prices $10 dollars for a huge burger( of top quality beef) a with fries ( that is big enough to split between 2 people) is not over price. My mother worked there for over 20 years. And it is more like a family business, witch are becoming few and far between..The people that work there are great and I will be sad to see it go..I hope he gets help and is able to keep it, and I hope he gets all those penalties and late fees taking off...People truly do not understand how you can get quickly shoved into a big hole in which there is no way out...with the way the economy is going....When it happens to you, then you will understand... untill then...
Neal October 15, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I am sorry you donnot agree with my overpriced comment Elizabeth, we are all welcome to our opinions, I invite you to head over to Lamplighters or Nelly's for a 7.00 burger that is easily as good as Brandt's. And objectively, could it be a possibility that you could be a biut biased because you mother worked there for so long? Just saying.. And FYI, this would never happen to me, because I pay all my bills and I blame no one for my debt except myself, I only wish our businesses and our government could be as self responsible.
Jim October 15, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Wasn't Brandt's threatening to shut down after they had the fire a few years ago? Or am I mistaken? Admit I used to like going there, years ago, recently did not feel the food was up to the old standards and over priced. Guess it is progress, time for the old to move out of the way.
Neal October 15, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Elizabeth, what exactly do you mean, "you hope he gets help" do you mean a government handout so he doesn't have to close? Do you know that's our money that's been paid in taxes that the government hands out? Wait a minute, I am struggling to pay my bills, why don't I get one too? Oh, that's right, because I am responsible and actually pay my loans I take out. I for one don't think bailing out businesses that are financially unresponsible should be any taxpayers responsibility. Seriously, if you like them so much why not give them your money to help them. Or better yet, have a fundraiser for them. C'mon, seriously it is just an average bar/burger joint that didn't handle thier finances well. Why again, should we bail them out? I'm looking for a good reason, but I can't find any reason with the facts we have here at hand.
Neal October 15, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Yes Jim, that was them, I had heard that the insurance money didn't pay out all that they hoped at the time. Sounds kinda fishy if you ask me..
Beth October 15, 2012 at 06:34 PM
I will be sad if they go. And I agree the people who work there are totally part of the charm, along with the huge burger. But they chose to take to loan, that's all I'm saying. If I take out a loan, I AM RESPONSIBLE.
Neal October 15, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Beth, Exactly, I am glad to hear that other business owners get it, thank you for renewing some of my faith in american businesses.
Neal October 15, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I had to laugh that on the bottom of the page there is a big ad for Splinters Sports Pub. I wonder how much they are behind on thier mortgage?
Mike K October 15, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Back in 2007-2008 there was an attempt to redevelop the corner with a Walgreens and a 5/3 bank I believe. Palatine Council voted 6-0 to reject the plan. I don't recall their reasoning at the time, but I wonder if they are kicking themselves now. An empty foreclosed restaurant versus a tax generating Walgreens and bank??? I'd take the Walgreens.
Wendy Layman-Burger October 15, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Brandt's owners are old family friends. I grew up close by being born and raised in Palatine then moving at 28 yrs old. As sad as it is to hear this news, it sounds like it was a long time coming. I wish George and all small business owners the best of luck. Palatine has become very costly and keeping up with the changes must be hard.
Bucephalus October 16, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Palatine's business climate doesn't put a business $700,000 in debt. Maybe a few dollars either way but not $700,000.
Wendy Layman-Burger October 16, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Never said Palatine was the only reason for the debt, Just that Palatines desire to blend with Barrington and Inverness makes running a business there harder. Not impossible, just harder. Also, Crook County doesn't help ether.
Louanne October 16, 2012 at 02:57 AM
This is a sad story. I wish there was something positive that could be done.
Elizabeth January 28, 2013 at 09:04 PM
We have had great times there, everyone knows everyone I hope it works out for the best for George and his family.
Knowthefacts January 31, 2013 at 07:47 PM
The loan was taken out to do the many needed repairs that had taken place after the fire. The insurance company did not pay very much. Many of you do not know that the buidling needed a lot of work. In fact, the new owners will not be able to open because the Village is asking them as the new owners to make repairs immediately. Before you post, know all the facts. You cannot stay in business for over 65 years and NOT pay your bills.
Neal January 31, 2013 at 08:03 PM
We do know the facts, they are in the article.. Sorry you are personally offended, please don't take it out on us, I had nothing to do with the downfall of the owners, only they did. again, those are facts.. They were 700,000 in debt, more facts.. if they fixed it all with that loan money, then A) why is it still a dump? and B) Why is the village making them fix it again? Again, if I had a successful business, I would have it properly insured, and definitely paid off in 65 years.

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