Baity: Mom-and-pops could fare well

By Gus Bode

Even though new restaurants such as Stadium Grille and Fat Patties are opening their doors in an unsteady economy, assistant city manager Kevin Baity said it is a good time for businesses to be putting fresh plans into action.

The owners of Carbondale’s newest restaurants said they hoped their businesses would help the local economy. Baity said it may be a better move to get production started, even in a risky time, since it can take as long as seven to 12 months to get a business going from the ground up.

‘ ‘That way when the economy does bounce back, they are ready and waiting for that customer,’ Baity said.

Advertisement

Carbondale has room for multiple pizza places, ethnic food restaurants and burger joints as long as they’re each different, City Council member and Fat Patties owner Lance Jack said.

‘The more (restaurants) we have, the greater the choice, the more we’re going to become a dining destination in southern Illinois,’ Jack said.

Sherry Morgan and Gary Strothmann, a brother and sister-in-law team from Murphysboro, have opened their first sports bar and restaurant, Stadium Grille, at 309 E. Maine St.

Though Stadium Grille and Fat Patties both list burgers on the menu, their similarities stop there. Morgan and Strothmann employ 85 with a dining room to seat 70, a bar room serving liquor and beer and an outdoor patio. Fat Patties has one room and 10 employees.

Morgan said she has no experience in hospitality, but Strothmann, the former general manager of the 17th Street Bar and Grill, has taught her a lot about the business.

Morgan said she and Strothmann looked at both Marion and Carbondale before opening their doors.’ She said they chose Carbondale because of its ‘happy middle’ location between Murphysboro and Marion.

Baity said that Carbondale is a unique, university town that hasn’t experienced a major decrease in sales that businesses in larger, metropolitan areas have during the recession.

Advertisement

Stadium Grille’s walls are covered in photos from every sport at SIUC, and Morgan said they are working to acquire more from John A. Logan College.

Fat Patties is a work in progress, Jack said, and he plans to make the d’eacute;cor a tribute to the ‘hay days’ of Carbondale and its music scene.

Cotton Ferrell, a retired SIUC building maintenance worker, said he’s gone to Stadium Grille several times. He said he had not been to Fat Patties because he doesn’t go on the Strip because he sees it as more of the young people’s territory.

Jack said he opened on S. Illinois Avenue because he wanted to be right near the action and wants to help revitalize the area. He also said he would continue efforts to obtain an AI liquor license, which will allow him to server beer and wine.’

Jack applied for the license in the spring but was denied when city officials raised concerns over whether Jack’s membership of the Liquor Control Commission was a conflict of interest.

‘I personally enjoy the feel of going into a funky little eclectic joint that has its own personality,’ Jack said.’

He said he prefers smaller scale restaurants to larger ones for that reason, but believes there is room in Carbondale for both.

Jack said he remembered when he helped Laura Harbaugh open Harbaugh’s Caf’eacute; in 2000, a lot of existing businesses looked at them as new competition.

‘And I tried to explain to everybody that what we’re trying to do is expand the pie so that everybody can still have a piece,’ he said.

Advertisement