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Archive for Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Eldridge Hotel seeks general manager for restaurant, bar

June 14, 2005

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The Eldridge Hotel is shopping for a new general manager to oversee its restaurant and bar.

Bobby Douglass, a co-owner of the hotel, no longer is involved in the day-to-day operations of the hotel's food and beverage businesses, said Dan Sabatini, a member of the hotel's ownership group.

"He's a great asset," Sabatini said. "He's still involved. He just had too many irons in the fire."

Both Ten, the hotel's restaurant, and The Jayhawker, the hotel's bar, had been operating under Douglass' leadership since the historic building reopened last month after a four-month, $2 million makeover.

Douglass, a former Kansas University and NFL quarterback, has business interests in the Chicago area. Since retiring from professional football and a brief stint as a minor-league pitcher, Douglass has been involved in dozens of restaurant, real estate and property-management projects.

Such responsibilities ultimately convinced Douglass to head back to Chicago for a while, Sabatini said, as the hotel's owners and managers continue their ongoing search for a full-time general manager for the restaurant and bar.

"It's been decided all along that we'd do that," Sabatini said. "We probably opened up too early, because we couldn't find a (restaurant and bar) general manager that we liked. That's why Bobby was doing it."

Attempts to reach Douglass Monday were unsuccessful. But as the hotel was preparing to reopen, Douglass noted that his connections with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based company with 31 restaurant concepts, primarily in the Chicago area, would help the operations get going.

He brought in consultants from the company to help devise the restaurant's concept, menu, prices and other operational responsibilities.

David Longhurst, another co-owner of the hotel, said the restaurant and bar has been meeting or exceeding the expectations of ownership and management.

"His responsibility was to put everything together and get this puppy together," Longhurst said. "It's not his responsibility to run it and wait tables. He was in town for three or four weeks continuously, which is unusual."

Douglass teamed up with fellow KU alumni Mitchell and Susan Chaney to lead an investment group that bought the 80-year-old hotel for $2.92 million at a bankruptcy auction in October.

The investment group also includes members of the Gene Fritzel and Joel Fritzel families in Lawrence, plus business associates Longhurst and Bob Schulte, both former Lawrence mayors; and Frank Sabatini, owner of Capital City Bank in Topeka, and his son, Dan Sabatini, a Lawrence architect.

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