Evanston Metra Cafe Fights To Keep Doors Open

CHICAGO (CBS) — For decades, the restaurant/cafe at Evanston’s Central Street Metra Station has been a staple for commuters boarding a train downtown.

“We’re only open Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. in the morning. There’s a reason for those hours. We cater to the morning train commuters,” said Elizabeth Hubbard, who’s owned the Upstairs Cafe for 4 1/2 years with three other Evanston women.

WBBM’s Lisa Fielding reports.

“The space has been a cafe for decades. Before we bought it, it was owned by Mary Lou Smith for 24 years as the ‘Top of the Tracks’ which even served lunch. It was also a cafe in the ’70s and ’80s,” she said. “Two of my partners are bakers so we offer up coffee, baked goods and breakfast. Things that people can get in 10 minutes and eat on the train. We don’t even take credit cards so it speeds up the process so no one missed their train.”

But the women learned a couple of weeks ago that Union Pacific would not be renewing their lease.

“Our lease is with the city of Evanston and they have a 20-year lease with Union Pacific and that lease expires this year so we started negotiations with Union Pacific, assuming that they would be happy to have us stay but they’ve decided to go in a different direction,” said Hubbard.

Hubbard said they have heard the company may want to bring in a bank, a cleaners or even a chain, like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.

“I think what we bring is a local flair. We offer a community for our customers. They want that personal touch. We’ve been known to feed people’s parking meters, return lost items. We really know the community. The cafe is really a meeting place every morning,” she said.

Supporters of the cafe have been asking Union Pacific to reconsider their decision.

“We feel Union Pacific isn’t taking these factors into consideration. Things like a bank or a dry cleaners don’t make sense for that space. The campaign has been grassroots and passionate. Our customers care about how Evanston looks and feels and they don’t want another chain. We’ve been overwhelmed and very touching we appreciate it all. We hope it makes a difference. We’d really like to stay.”

In a statement, Union Pacific said they are looking for the most effective way to use the space.

In the meantime, the city has offered to help the women find a new location. Hubbard and her co-owners have been told they must vacate the space by April 30th.

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