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Banquet hall tent OK'd after intense debate

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

A request for a six-week temporary tent during Ramadan for a local banquet hall created a stir at last Thursday’s Hickory Hills Council meeting.

Ald. Thomas McAvoy (3rd) approved a request for the tent for Aladdin’s Palace Banquet Hall, 8821 W. 87th St., near the end of what seemed as though was going to be a brief and inconsequential meeting.

McAvoy presented a six-page report outlining the request from the owners of the banquet hall, Layal ElSahfei and her sister, Kamar. He added that the request was supported by Mayor Mike Howley and Brian Fonte, his fellow 3rd Ward alderman.

He stated that the owner of the 87th Street Plaza where the facility is located is Alan ElSahfei, their uncle.

“He is a stellar businessman and is very cooperative with our city’s requirements about the plaza,” said McAvoy about the banquet hall that is in the 3rd Ward.

According to the written request, the ElSahfei family wants to erect a 30-by-30 foot tent in the parking lot to the east of the banquet hall. The tent would be used to accommodate seating for overflow attendees and those wishing to smoke at events held in connection with the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, which runs from May 26 through June 24. Layal ElSahfei, who was present at the meeting, explained that the tent would serve as an overflow area for their business, which normally seats about 250 people.

“All food would be served inside the restaurant but customers could carry their plates out to the tent. Smoking would also be allowed in the tent,” she said.

Mayor Mike Howley joined McAvoy in support of the request, stating that the tent would be a temporary addition.

“They have been good corporate citizens and since this a temporary situation, it will give the owners a chance to evaluate the process to see if it is workable for future events,” Howley said. “Even though I do not have a vote, I support this request.”

At that point, the council erupted with numerous questions for ElSahfei.

Ald. Scott Zimmerman (4th Ward) asked about the noise level.

“There are residents just across the way from that area,” Zimmerman said. “What are the hours planned for this? Is there going to be music?

Ald. Debbie Ferrero (2nd Ward) asked about the purpose of the tent.

“Are there going to be tables and chairs set up? Is this going to be considered an expansion of the banquet hall?

As ElSahfei attempted to answer the barrage of questions, McAvoy intervened with comments about his meeting with the owner of the plaza.

“The Aladdin facility has been a tenant in the 87th Street Plaza in the past four years without a single violation. It is family run and a well-respected business in the community.”

Tension in the room continued to escalate, prompting Building Commissioner Joe Moirano to speak up in defense of Layal ElSahfei.

“Before this goes any further, I want to state that I have worked with this young lady since the business has been opened and I have had nothing but cooperation from her,” Moirano said. “She complies with any requests from the city, she runs a very solid business, the establishment is exceptionally clean, meeting all health requirements and I think we should consider this request for a temporary tent at the facility. I agree with the mayor that it can be evaluated through the month they have requested to see if it is a viable decision.”

Howley then called for a vote. It was 7-1 in favor of allowing the tent to be used. Ald. John Szeszycki (1st Ward) cast the opposing vote.

A second agenda item also prompted a series of questions when Village Engineer Mike Spolar presented a request to award a contract in the amount of $88,524 to A.C. Paving Striping for the 2017 Micro-Surfacing Street Program. Ald. Brian Waight (1st Ward) said he would only approve it if the work included a second layer of paving on 94th Street.

Public Works Director Len Boettcher stated that putting down a second layer would result in a change to the bid amount. Szeszyck and McAvoy also questioned why the street could not receive a second layer of paving. Boettcher replied that it is a dead-end street and was not on the priority list.

The request was approved in a 6-2 vote with McHugh and Szeszycki voting nay.

In other business, four newly elected aldermen were installed with City Clerk D’Lorah Catizone administering the oaths of office. Returning to office were Waight, Fonte and Joseph Stachnik (4th Ward).

On another matter, the council heard a presentation from Bryan Farr, executive director of The Historic US Route 20 Association Inc.

Farr had spent the day traveling through Hickory Hills on US Route 20, which is also 95th Street, with McAvoy. They visited various restaurants and sights along the way in the city.

“Our purpose is to encourage travel and tourism along America’s longest highway, which spans the continent through 12 states from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. It is 3,365 miles of highway, from Boston to Oregon,” he said.

He added that unlike Route 66, Historic US Route 20 is drivable from coast to coast and follows much of its original 1926 alignment through small town America. Many malls shops, diners, historical sites and museums await exploration, Farr said.

Farr said there is a preconception that this particular portion of Route 20 through Hickory Hills is crowded and congested.

“I wanted to visit it myself to encourage people to drive it rather than by passing it on the expressways. I found it to be a very friendly community. Today, we visited a number of interesting neighborhood restaurants that were great as well as some other historical places. It was truly enjoyable.”

He said the Historical Association provides large signs 24-by-36 inches than can be displayed along the route in the various cities at a cost of $100.

Howley thanked Farr for his presentation and information and thanked McAvoy for hosting the tour.