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Bring your own ... chair?

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scooters_storefront.pngScooter's Frozen Custard is the type of business that any neighborhood, in any town, would love to have as part of their community. The Roscoe Village spot -- on Belmont between Ashland and Ravenswood -- draws neighborhood residents young and old, families, kids, dog owners and their pups. The tiny corner cafe creates the kind of scene that makes living in a congested, noisy city bearable. The owners are friendly and chat with customers, the employees -- who often have to deal with a line of customers at their walk-up window as well as a line going out the door -- are harried but always pleasant and offer service with a smile.

The owners believe that something like frozen custard, some with funny names such as "Chocolate Yum Yum" and "Coco Loco" can bring a little comfort and a smile to people even when folks are going through rough times.

Those frozen custards -- concretes, they call 'em -- are something else. They resemble soft-serve ice cream but the product is so much better than your typical ice cream, soft serve or regular. According to their Web site, "the process for making frozen custard is very labor intensive. The product is made fresh every day, from scratch, and that is part of reason it tastes so good. It is also the most dense of any ice cream variety on the market. Contrary to some urban myths, frozen custard is NOT extremely high in butterfat. In fact, Scooter's frozen custard is approximately 40 percent lower in butterfat that some of your favorite high end ice creams found at your local grocery store."

For the past six years, were you to visit Scooter's on a summer night (they're closed in winter) you'd find moms and dads, their little kids sitting on little chairs outside the Scooter's building, couples, single folks, older folks, and a few pups and their owners at the dog-friendly spot. The puppies would be drinking water out of the dishes Scooter's owners put outside for them, or they'd be eating custard from little cones from their owners, who would be sitting on some other chairs Scooter's had put out on the sidewalk up against the building or near the curb. There was even a garbage can that Scooter's put out there at their own expense, to keep the surrounding area clean. In all, a wonderful neighborhood spot and neighborly vibe in a city where such scenes are a little too uncommon.

But apparently that's not the sort of sight City Hall -- or the alderman's office -- wants as part of this city. That's because Scooter's has been ordered to take away the chairs, the water dishes and the garbage can. The city departments enforcing this order are Mayor Daley's office, Ald. Scott Waguespack's (32nd) office and the city Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Scooter's owners really don't have the money or resources to fight City Hall, so the chairs et al are gone, and a little bit of people trying to be good neighbors and cultivate a neighborly environment has been quashed.

It's so different from when Scooter's set up shop six years ago, according to their Web site. "When we opened, we had a different alderman who encouraged us to put chairs out as we did. We have tried to be a nice neighborhood place where neighbors can meet neighbors on a nice summer evening, but the city has singled out our neighborhood shop."

Why? It would seem that someone told someone else they didn't like the chairs, the dogs, the kids, the custard, whatever, and Scooter's is then ordered to take them away. These sort of actions just don't happen. Someone has to say something.

But there's a movement afoot by some of Scooter's neighbors and friends to speak up, as well. They've already set up a Facebook page to show support and update information on their case.

Some have also suggested a "BYOC" or "Bring Your Own Chair" protest by fans of Scooter's, or perhaps a sit-in or "sit-out." A nice idea, but I would not be surprised if such action prompted someone to call 911. Then Scooter's would be in even more trouble.

Scooter's can put the chairs back outside, but now they have to get a permit to do so, and there will be some cost involved. The permit will take between 60 and 90 days to process, by which time the ice cream season will be long over, and there will be no chairs, no kids, no puppies, no neighbors milling about outside of Scooter's. But at least there will be one happy person around -- the joyless and sad soul who complained in the first place.

2 Comments

Sure...pick on the little guy. The alderman stays out of this. Why? No power to do anything in his Ward? Really? What does he have the power to do? Scooter's has been a great place for the neighborhood since they opened. They ROCK! And all of those City people do is wash their hands of these great Entrepreneurs. Great article. Aren't we in tough times and all the City and Alderman do is try to hurt small business.

I live in the neighborhood.. Scooters is a gem. It is not like it is a rowdy bar. It is "Mom home and apple pie.. or frozen custard".. a return to a kinder gentler age... they should be allowed to have the chairs out. It is a wonderful beacon in the neighborhood. I grew up in the suburbs.. and people ask what it is like living in the city. With businesses like Scooters it is the best of all worlds. You get the city.. and the neighborhood. It is a tragedy that this would be squashed.. and then the city is what everyone that doesn't live here thinks it would be... cold and unfeeling. Let the families and dogs sit an enjoy a cone and some water.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by James Scalzitti published on August 3, 2009 12:07 AM.

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