A surprising yearlong vacancy is coming to a close at the south-Springfield restaurant space last occupied by Smoky Bones Barbecue & Grill, while central Springfield staple Steak and Ale abruptly closed its doors.
Colorado-based restaurant chain Old Chicago plans to open its first Missouri spot in Springfield on Sept. 15 at 2040 E. Independence St., where notable former tenants include Smoky Bones and Rio Bravo.
The Chicago-style pizza chain has 100 locations across the country and is known for its 110 beer varieties.
“We also have steaks, pasta, burgers, numerous sandwiches and salads,” said manager Dustin Ross, who noted that the eatery also will offer a lunch buffet. “It’s a very laid-back atmosphere. But our honey pot is the pizza and beer.”
Chicago Central LLC is the franchisee for the Springfield market; the Oklahoma City-based company also runs three locations in the OKC metropolitan area.
Ross estimated that more than $1 million has been spent in preparation at the 7,200-square-foot restaurant, including work to completely gut the former barbecue joint.
The average investment for new franchisees to open a new location, according to www.oldchicago.com, ranges from $1.5 million to about $2 million; franchisees pay 4 percent of gross sales in royalties, along with 1 percent to the company’s franchise marketing fund.
The restaurant’s Springfield location has been vacant since May 4, 2007, when parent company Darden Restaurants closed 55 Smokey Bones and put the remaining 73 locations up for sale. Darden officials did not return calls seeking comment.
Despite the lack of success of the site’s previous inhabitant – Smokey Bones was open less than a year before closing its doors – Ross said he feels the new concept will be successful, even in the “cutthroat” Springfield restaurant industry.
“Springfield is definitely one of the most saturated markets for restaurants, but it’s because it’s one of the areas that dines out more than places like Tulsa or Oklahoma City,” Ross said. “The city can always take on another restaurant, because the residents are always happy to see something new come in.”
Chicago Central LLC is not stopping with Springfield, either; according to partner Casey Klepper, the five-person group has territorial rights to southwest Missouri, northwest Arkansas and all of Oklahoma. Klepper said the group plans to eventually operate 14 restaurants, including locations in Joplin and Branson.
“Two of our group members are from Tulsa and one is from Joplin, so we have a lot of ties to the area,” Klepper said. “We think Missouri and Springfield will really take to our products. We’re all about food and a good time.”
Longtime Springfield eatery Steak and Ale, 1935 S. Glenstone Ave., closed its doors July 29, the day after holding company S&A Properties filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The Texas-based company, a subsidiary of Metromedia Restaurant Group, operated 52 Steak & Ale restaurants – including Missouri’s lone location in Springfield.
Calls to the Springfield Steak & Ale location and the corporate offices of Metromedia Restaurant Group went unanswered. There was no sign posted about the closure at the Springfield location as of July 30, but the lights were dimmed and the building’s parking lot was empty.
Auto industry veteran Don Wessel was a regular patron of the South Glenstone eatery. He said he was shocked to find the restaurant had closed.
“We’re going to miss it,” Wessel said. “I was there every Monday; I belong to every country club in town, and they all close on Mondays. If you can recommend a place, let me know.”
S&A Properties’ bankruptcy filing listed assets of less than $50 million and liabilities of between $50 million and $100 million.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows for liquidation of assets so that sale proceeds can be used to pay creditors.
S&A’s filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Texas states that the company has up to 49 creditors, and there would be no funds available for unsecured creditors.[[In-content Ad]]
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