Thursday, October 02, 2014

Owner wants hometown restaurateur for former Drivers space

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 1/6/2014

As renovation work continues, Jim Lewis said a few prospective businesses have expressed interest in the space that previously housed Drivers Sports Cafe.

Lewis bought the 7,900-square-foot building, 222 E. Logan St., Ottawa, in October and said he hopes to find another local restaurant owner to lease the space.

As renovation work continues, Jim Lewis said a few prospective businesses have expressed interest in the space that previously housed Drivers Sports Cafe.

Lewis bought the 7,900-square-foot building, 222 E. Logan St., Ottawa, in October and said he hopes to find another local restaurant owner to lease the space.

“My first hope, and I’m not sure this will happen, but I’m leaning toward the decor downstairs in red and white,” Lewis said. “If I lease it to this one guy, we’ll make Cyclone cellar, a banquet room down there, and do upstairs in gold and black like Ottawa University stuff — give it local flavor.”

Lewis, a 1964 Ottawa High School graduate and the owner of the family-run Checkers Foods in Lawrence, purchased the building this fall at auction for $190,000, and he said he doesn’t want a big chain restaurant going into the building.

“I want to make it a hometown guy if I can,” he said. “I’m the hometown guy here, and I think it’s important to promote local.”

Lewis has had quite a few interested parties, he said, but for now he’s focused on revamping the old restaurant.

“We had to do reconstruction on flooring and still quite a ways away from doing anything,” he said. “It’s such a neat old building. It’s got a lot of ambience, so I’m trying to make it look better and get a fresh look. We took all the equipment out and cleaned and repaired it.”

An eatery of some sort definitely will eventually lease the building, he said, but what kind is another question.

“It’ll be a restaurant, I just don’t know what’s going to be in there,” he said. “We’ll just wait and see.”

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