Commons snags restaurant, coffee bar

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Republic

A family restaurant and a specialty coffee and tea bar with baked items are expected to open in the new Commons by late August.

They would become the first tenants of the $18 million structure opening today on Washington Street.

Scott Wise, owner of several Scotty's Brewhouse restaurants in areas such as Bloomington and West Lafayette, also owns Scotty's Lakehouse in Geist. He will own the yet-to-be-named 5,500-square-foot establishment in the "Chaos I" lobby on The Commons' first floor.

Wise's eatery will share space with Hubbard & Cravens Coffee and Tea Co.

Sharon Renfro, Commons leasing manager, and the Commons board made the announcement Monday morning at City Hall.

The three-member Columbus Downtown Inc. board made the selection by majority vote. Renfro said no other board or agency must approve the selection.

She said she expects to announce another restaurant for the building's 2,500-square-foot space within about three weeks. That business still is finalizing its plans.

When asked about details of the financial arrangement, Renfro said neither restaurant has signed a letter of intent or lease yet.

"I can do business on a handshake," said Wise.

Businesses in the building are especially important in the new Commons' early days to help city officials cover operating expenses, leaders have said.

Wise also said the new structure triggered his decision to open the new restaurant, meant to be a mix of his Brewhouse and Lakehouse concepts.

"To me, even the kids' (playground) area was just unbelievable," Wise said. "I want to be bring my own (three) kids down here and let them play while I go to work."

Wise said he first considered a restaurant here in 2002 but could not secure financing.

The new restaurant will offer $7 lunch specials, plus children-eat-free Sundays and Tuesdays. Many meals will be priced from $6 to $11, Wise said. Many children's meals will cost from $3 to $5, he said.

The restaurant will carry a strong eco-friendly theme. In fact, because of that, Renfro suggested Wise call this outlet Scotty's Greenhouse.

He said he expects to employ 60 to 75, mostly part time.

Erni Mann, chief financial officer for Hubbard & Cravens, said her company had decided to come to Columbus because of a partnership with Wise.

Mann said Wise's restaurants feature "a consistent high quality that meshes well with our product."

Hubbard & Cravens offers organic coffees and teas from family farms worldwide. Mann recently returned from plantations in Ethiopia.

The firm operates six stores in the Indianapolis area, but 85 percent of its business comes from distributing products to restaurants.

The local Hubbard & Cravens will be mostly a bar area inside Wise's restaurant, Mann said.

Kristin Peterson, a regional manager for the company, said the shop will offer simple breakfast items.

"We're envisioning some kind of grab-and-go items," Peterson said, referring to baked goods.

CDI member Valerie Chowning, Renfro, and Armstrong all said that other downtown locations can be found for businesses not selected for the Commons.

"There definitely was more demand (for space) than we could supply," said Chowning. "But we're committed to finding a way to help other interested businesses get down here (downtown)."

Armstrong said he expected some business owners to be upset that they were not selected for the Commons.

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