ECC demolishes old Colonial Cafe property

A local union protested during the demolition.

Alejandro Santoyo, Staff Reporter

If you entered Elgin Community College from the McLean Boulevard entrance during the month of April, you probably saw workers demolishing the old Colonial Cafe restaurant, a property that ECC bought in 2020. And you also might have seen a large inflatable rat nearby with sign that read “Shame on ECC.” The reason? Protestors claim that ECC hired a demolition company with a troubled past.

During an ECC Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 14, 2021,  Fowler Enterprises LLC won the bidding for the demolition of the shuttered Colonial Cafe at 600 S. McLean Blvd.

“ECC with the assistance of its architect, JP Architects, performed its due diligence prior to awarding a contract to Fowler Enterprises LLC who had an Illinois Certificate of Good Standing, a good financial ranking from Dun & Bradstreet and clean references were checked,” said Elgin Community College General Counsel Respicio F. Vazquez in an email statement on April 22 to the Observer.

But that’s not the full story, according to the protestors. The claim is that Fowler Enterprises LLC has a connection to Fowler Services and other companies, according to Roberto Perez, business agent for Laborers’ Local 225. Perez addressed the ECC board with these concerns at the Sept. 14 meeting, according to the board meeting minutes.

“[ECC] hired Fowler Enterprises; Fowler Services was the old name. They switched it a couple times,” Perez said. “That’s what we tried to explain to the board trustees to no avail. But it is the same guy, same owners.”

Vazquez explained at the board meeting that Fowler Enterprises LLC is a separate company and that there was no documentation that Fowler Enterprises LLC had not complied with any laws or did not pay a prevailing wage, according to board meeting minutes. (The trustees approved Fowler Enterprises LLC by a 6-1 vote.)

Jake Fowler is the current owner of Fowler Enterprises LLC, according to the secretary of state records. Jake Fowler’s dad, Brian Fowler, is connected to a series of previous companies.

Fowler Services, a company owned by Brian Fowler, was found by Illinois Department of Labor for violating the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, owing $9,146.32 in back wages and had to pay a $1,829.26 fine, according to the Illinois Department of Labor.

Brian Fowler also owned another company called A-1 Fowler, Inc.  According to records obtained from the Illinois Department of Labor through a Freedom of Information Act request, A-1 Fowler Inc. on May. 14, 2015 was found by the Illinois Department of Labor to have violated the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act. The company had to pay the department $2,479.80 of back wages and a $495.96 penalty, according to state records. The company voluntary dissolved in 2019, according to Illinois Secretary of State records.

According to records obtained from the Illinois Department of Labor through a Freedom of Information Act request, Fowler Enterprises LLC had a complaint formed against them in 2021, but on June. 21, 2021, the Department of Labor did not uncover sufficient evidence to justify a finding that Illinois Prevailing Wage Act has been violated.

Fowler Enterprises LLC. is a legally separate company that is currently in good standing with the Secretary of State.

The Observer asked ECC for additional comment, but through a spokesperson, the school did not offer further comment.