WRIGLEYVILLE — Neighbors blessed Roadhouse 66 to pursue a new location on Clark Street after owners agreed to minimum food sales to prove its a restaurant, not a bar.
Roadhouse 66's former location at 3330 N. Clark St. shuttered when the building burned down last fall. Owners Matt Warner, Casey Bloemke and Drew Lynch now want to reopen at 3478 N. Clark St. — but with more focus on food rather than booze.
But neighboring residents took some convincing that Roadhouse wouldn't be another rowdy Clark Street pub. Some pointed to Roadhouse's Twitter feed, which still blasts drink specials such as 2-for-1 bombs.
Residents have been fooled before, some members of Hawthorne Neighbors said. They've approved incidental liquor licenses based on "good faith," only to see the businesses turn into regular Wrigleyville fare, said resident Jenna Kraig.
"I hate to punish you for that history, but it's enough," she said. "We've hit a threshold."
Owners and attorney Dimitrios Christopoulos assured the group that Roadhouse is prepared to tie the license to a plan of operations, which was formulated by them, Ald. Tom Tunney's (44th) office and Hawthorne Neighbors' president Kevin McIntyre. If neighbors find that they're breaking rules in the plan, the liquor license would be at stake.
"They would be extremely stupid if they messed up this plan," Christopoulos said. "They would lose their investment."
Roadhouse won't be offering drink specials unless it comes with food. Smokers will be diverted off of Cornelia Street, where more people live. Windows on Cornelia will always be closed and have added sound curtains. All servers will be required to be certified by the state in selling alcohol.
And Roadhouse's accounts will be subject to audits to see the level of food sales versus alcohol sales. After much discussion at the meeting with neighbors, owners agreed to aim for at least 40 percent of sales from food, pending approval from the liquor commissioner.
Before burning down, Roadhouse went from 5 percent food sales to 30 percent, a growth owners credited to revamping the menu and cutting out fried foods.
"We’re behind this, pushing this as a restaurant," Bloemke said. "It’s not just lip service."
Legally, Roadhouse doesn't need to convince the neighbors or get Ald. Tom Tunney's (44th) sign off because they are taking over an existing liquor and patio license. Roadhouse would move into the location formerly occupied by Sweet Baby Ray's Smokehouse and Uberstein before it.
But Roadhouse wanted to address concerns that residents had raised at a January meeting to be a good neighbor and to avoid future issues, Christopoulos said.
Ultimately, nine neighbors voted to voice support Roadhouse, and three abstained.
"We don't get this from a lot of other businesses," McIntyre said. "I don't know what other teeth we could put into this."