JOLIET – City officials plan to meet Thursday with Bussean Custom Caterers to discuss a new lease at Union Station.
The lease expired in December, and Councilman Jim McFarland this week said the city should consider letting other caterers use the banquet hall at Union Station, which no longer is used as a train station.
The meeting with Bussean was planned weeks ahead of McFarland's comments at Tuesday's Joliet City Council meeting, said Jim Haller, community and economic development director.
Haller said the city has not heard from other caterers interested in using Union Station and noted that Jeffrey Bussean has spent money on banquet area upgrades.
"He was the only guy who stepped up and invested so much of his own money into that building," Haller said.
If city officials and Bussean do reach an agreement on a new lease, it would have to be presented to the City Council for approval, Haller said.
Union Station is owned by the City of Joliet. It was closed last year to commuters as the city changed the location of commuter platforms as part of construction project that will include a new train station on the other side of the tracks.
Bussean apparently has expected to remain at Union Station. He has spent money on upgrades since the lease expired, including a conversion of the old Metra ticket office into a bride's room for wedding parties.
Other than a police substation, Bussean has been the building's only user since it was shut down to commuters. The building has basically been locked up, with Bussean also using a downstairs area for banquet space.
The banquet hall is on the second level.
Bussean could not be reached for comment Wednesday. But a spokeswoman told The Herald-News in February that Union Station had become more valuable as a banquet setting without commuters going through.
McFarland said Tuesday it is possible the banquet facility could be put to greater use if the city gave more caterers access.
"I'd like us to see how we can maximize the train station for greater revenue," McFarland said.
Haller said Bussean has discussed new terms that would bring more revenue to Joliet. Rent is now based on 15 percent of gross receipts from food and beverage sales and $4 per person attending events. That could be changed to a flat fee of $10,000 a month, Haller said.
In past years, depending on the economy, rent revenue from the banquet facility has been anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000, Haller said.