Mojofuco Restaurants came away a winner Tuesday when its request for federal funding from the city was endorsed in full.
The Wauwatosa Economic Development Corporation met to divvy up a pie that was a bit smaller than the appetites of three applicants from the food industry.
With about $350,000 left in the Community Development Block Grant kitty for private business development, a new restaurant, an existing restaurant and a food processor forwarded applications totaling $479,000.
All three applicants came away with some funding recommendations, but the hip newcomer to town earned the most.
The newcomer, Mojofuco Restaurants owns the Hi-Hat Lounge, The Garage, Fuel Café, Balzac, Palomino and BelAir Cantina in Milwaukee, and on the southwest corner of West North Avenue and North 68th Street in Wauwatosa. Partner Scott Johnson also owns Comet Cafe separately from the Mojofuco group.
Mojofuco sought $150,000 to help the group complete purchase of the property, the vacant site of the former Aqua Terra tropical fish store.
restaurant owner Michael Feker was seeking $130,000 to make his restaurant at 6913 W. North Ave. more accessible to the disabled and to expand his seating and catering.
Century Automatic Services, 802 N. 109th St., which distributes juice concentrates and vending machine beverages and supplies, was asking for $199,000 to expand operations.
"The building on North is a great building, and we love the neighbors," said Scott Johnson, a partner in Mojofuco. "It's going to make a great space – it's got great bones."
Pete Papageorge, president and sole owner of Century Services, said, "We feel like there's a great opportunity for our business to grow, mainly in coffee service. I've been out on the street selling it, and I can't keep up."
Michael Feker, owner of Il Mito, said he wanted to put to use a patio area that is already approved for outdoor seating and needed funding mainly for code compliance improvements to add up to 42 seats.
"We looked at total project costs as well as the percentage of total project costs in these requests," said city Economic Development Director Paulette Enders. "If you reduce these percentages by any signficant amount, are the businesses able to proceed with their project? Or does it just blow up?"
She pointed out that CDBG requests should not exceed $35,000 per job created. That would automatically limit Century Services to a maximum of $105,000.
Kristian Sydow, commercial real estate broker for Mojofuco Restaurants, said that the BelAir request could not be phased in parts and could not proceed with any significant reduction in its request.
Belair Cantina's request, including a $100,000 revolving loan already approved, amounted to 17 percent of its $1.3 million project and would create 26 jobs.
Century Service's request was for 65 percent of its expansion plan costs, producing three jobs.
Papageorge said that Century could "work around" any reduction, it would just slow implementation of his plans.
Il Mito was asking for 91 percent of the cost of its patio plans, which would add eight jobs.
"We have two great Wauwatosa businesses here, and one that wants to be," said Ald. Dennis McBride.
"Clearly, the bang for the buck is with BelAir Cantina. Not only is it creating more jobs, but it's bringing in a new business to Wauwatosa."
McBride suggested fully funding BelAir Cantina at $150,000 and giving $50,000 to each of the other applicants, leaving about $100,000 in the CDBG coffers for other requests that may come throughout the year.
That was amended to give Il Mito $60,000 after Feker said that he would need that much to do the most critical part of his project — a new and larger kitchen hood.