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“We’re just too small and outdated, taxes are killing us,” Grisco said, “We are not making anything right now, we’re just trying to survive.”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