A Beef with Washington

Owner of Italian beef shop testifies before Congress

Chicago's famous Mr. Beef restaurant is on the verge of foreclosure -- and the man himself headed to Washington on Wednesday to tell Congress a thing or two.

"We're not going out of business.  It's not because we have a lack of customers or anything like that.  It's just that we're having a problem with a bank that doesn't want to refinance us," said the son of the shop's owner, Chris Zuccero.

Mr. Joseph Zucchero, owner of the Mr. Beef restaurant in River North, shared his story of how the tough economy has hurt his business -- and how the government's relief program hasn't helped.

"It is time the TARP funds come with requirements that banks must actively seek out and help lower small businesses' interest rates or extend them mature loans," Joseph Zucchero testified.  Zuccero said the Troubled Assets Relief Program gave his bank about $85 million, but that didn't prevent them from closing his life of credit.

Mr. Beef has been in business for 30 years, peddling salty, juicy, beefy goodness at his River North restaurant. But lately, more people are brown-bagging it, and that's taken a slice out of Mr. Beef's business. A bank refused to extend Mr. Beef's line of credit, and he now faces foreclosure.

The surrounding community has responded to help Mr. Beef stay afloat, with one customer going so far as to give away free Italian beefs from the eatery.  The customer even paid for it out of his own pocket.

"This place is quintessentialsmall business, and mom and pop.  It's the anti-chain restaurant. And that's what I love about it, and that's what I'm fighting for," Mark Dipietro said.

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