JOLIET – The city is looking for a new banquet operator at Union Station.
Jeffrey Bussean, whose Bussean Custom Caterers has operated the Grand Ballroom in the old train station since 2001, plans to move out in January, city officials said.
The City Council Economic Development Committee will review criteria at 5 p.m. Thursday before putting out a request for qualifications from potential operators of the facility.
Bussean’s decision to leave Union Station comes after he had pushed for a 10-year lease nearly a year ago. No lease agreement ever was reached.
According to city officials, Bussean has become busy with his other operations and has notified the city that he needs to scale back.
“He wanted to give us notice because people are planning weddings months and months in advance,” Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said.
The city wants to have another banquet operator in Union Station in January so the facility will not have to close, Jones said.
Bussean did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Bussean Custom Caterers also owns the Patrick Haley Mansion in Joliet. Jones said Bussean will continue operating the Patrick Haley Mansion. But he is developing another facility in Wayne while also operating Chateau Busche in Alsip, Jones said.
“He gave us the impression that of all the sites he’s got, this is the one he can scale back on,” Jones said.
Bussean’s lease at Union Station became an issue in early 2015, when the banquet facility’s lease had run out although it continued to operate.
At that time, Councilman Jim McFarland suggested seeking proposals from other banquet operators before renewing the lease with Bussean. The council held a special meeting at Union Station, where Bussean led a tour to show his plans for the facility while seeking a 10-year lease to recoup the cost of investments. The council agreed to stay with Bussean, but a new lease never was created.
Jones said the city will look regionally for a new banquet operator.
“We’ll be looking at hospitality firms throughout the whole Chicago area because this is such a unique niche,” he said.
Union Station is a limestone structure built in 1912 and restored in the 1990s by the city. Joliet has attracted a future brew pub operator who hopes to open up in Union Station later this year.
Councilman Larry Hug, chairman of the Economic Development Committee, said the brew pub would be an added attraction for a potential banquet operator, and he expects the availability of Union Station to attract interest.
“I would be surprised if we have less than three qualified proposals,” Hug said.
He said the city will look for “someone with a proven track record not only in catering but also in managing a facility.”