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Monday, November 29, 2021

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New comic book-themed restaurant set to open in Mokena’s downtown

A dormant building in the heart of Mokena’s commercial corridor will soon turn the page and enter its next chapter as an animated eatery inspired by comic book characters.

The Mokena Village Board recently issued the green light to Zap! Taco, a sit-down restaurant offering an experiential dining concept. The establishment will be located at 19711 Mokena St. 

The board’s approval at an Aug. 24 meeting came nearly nine months after the proposal was first presented. The delay, in part, was due to COVID-19 and Gov. J. B. Pritzker’s order this spring for municipal officials to table all non-essential business items.

With life slowly returning to normal, Mokena decision-makers — and the ownership group behind Zap! Taco — resumed discussions this summer on the new business plan.

Several previous concerns, including parking, have been addressed, Matt Ziska, building and planning director, said. A study conducted early this year, before the pandemic, revealed there were adequate accommodations, Ziska said at the recent board meeting.

The village has offered several sweeteners to Zap! Taco’s ownership group — a firm known as Ace Group LLC — including a one-time $11,000 reimbursement for improvements to the property.

Ziska said the funds are being awarded through a tax-incremental financing, or TIF, district that encompasses the area. The reimbursement can be applied to exterior improvements and handicap-accessible enhancements to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act.

From the village’s perspective, Ziska said the use of a TIF reimbursement will improve the Mokena Street property and send a message that the village is ready and willing to work with developers.

“In our eyes, as the village, this is a win-win,” Ziska said. “They’re not only enhancing the building and the property, but (the TIF dollars) also serve as an economic development tool for us to try and bring more business to the downtown area, moving forward.” 

The board’s approval included several technical “yes” votes, including a rezoning of the property and the backing of multiple special-use requests, including a provision for outdoor seating.

During the recent discussion, Village President Frank Fleischer alluded to the multiple in-depth discussions that swirled around the property and noted all prior concerns have been addressed for the overhaul of the building to begin.

“Welcome, gentlemen,” Fleischer said to the owners. “You’re all set.”

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