TownTalk: Signs that Olive Garden is still likely in Lawrence; city, county taking applications for land program; The Jackpot Saloon changing hands, focus; new Dunkin’ location now open

News and notes from around town:

• As we have reported before, a deal to bring an Olive Garden restaurant to the northeast corner of 27th and Iowa streets may not be dead yet. There will be more evidence of that tonight at Lawrence City Hall. Planning commissioners at their monthly meeting are set to approve a rezoning request and a new plat for the corner. So far, it looks like smooth sailing for the proposal. Planning staff members are recommending approval of both items. For those of you who don’t remember, the last effort to bring an Olive Garden to that location got messier than red sauce with a white shirt. The idea of providing a property tax rebate on the project met with resistance from just enough city commissioners that the project never advanced. There’s no talk of such incentives this time around. Also, there technically hasn’t been any formal mention of an Olive Garden at the site either. The Kansas City area development group that owns the property hasn’t filed a site plan yet. That’s when specific tenant type of information would become available. But if it looks like a breadstick, smells like a breadstick, it probably is a breadstick. The rezoning and platting will provide enough lots for at least one other business to be part of the development. I’m not sure that there is enough room for Olive Garden’s sister company — Red Lobster — to locate there, but it might be worth keeping an eye on. Plus, I understand that a big trend with Olive Garden’s parent company is to build combination Red Lobster/Olive Garden restaurants. Imagine that. Breadsticks and cheesy biscuits in the same restaurant. Would they also provide a nap room?

• Speaking of gardens, (hey, it’s Monday, give me a break) there’s news about the city and county’s efforts to create new community garden space. As previously reported, the city and county gave approval for a new pilot program that will allow about a dozen pieces of vacant public ground to be used for local crop production. Now, the city and county are formally taking applications from individuals, businesses or nonprofits who want to use the property. Some of the sites are being suggested for use as community gardens, where a number of neighbors could band together to grow produce. But other sites — some are as large as 26 acres — could be used by growers that are more commercial in nature. The city and county are suggesting that the sites are suitable for cultivation of plants, herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables. City and county commissioners will make the final decisions on issuing licenses for the ground. There also will be a nominal fee of $1 per acre, per year for license holders. Applications are due by Dec. 16. You can get information about how to apply at the city’s website at You can also e-mail the city and county’s sustainability coordinator at

• I wish I was cool enough to know all the ins and outs of the local music scene. (Actually, I wish I could stay up late enough to know something about the local music scene.) But I do know this: The local music venue The Jackpot Saloon, 943 Mass., is undergoing some changes. Founder Nick Carroll is selling the music venue to a new venture out of San Francisco. Carroll tells me that plans call for the location to become much less of a music venue and much more of a “townie bar.” Carroll said the timing was right for him to sell the business that he started in 2004. Carroll said local bands are still pumping out good music and in good quantity, but he said the number of bands touring the country has declined significantly.

“I suppose it is because of the gas prices,” Carroll said.

Carroll said the slowdown in touring acts has made it difficult to book enough high-quality shows to keep the business viable. But Carroll will continue to own and operate The Replay Lounge across the street. In fact, Carroll is busy releasing a new record on The Replay Lounge Records label. The album, “Cash Only,” will feature 14 cuts from local bands. (Dang, I thought it was going to be local residents doing their best impersonations of the late, great Johnny Cash. Now that would have been cool.)

As for the upcoming changes to the Jackpot, they could happen as soon as Dec. 1. Carroll, though, said he thinks the new owners won’t change the name of the establishment.

UPDATE: I got an e-mail from the new owners of Jackpot. It is the husband-and-wife duo of Eric Berman and his wife, Darla. The couple owned a bar out in San Francisco that he said was a local hangout for journalists. (I think I’ve just been pitched.) As for the Jackpot, he said he hopes to still have some local music shows but also wants to add some “typical bar fare, a pool table or two, dart boards, a juke box, that sort of thing.” Berman said he went to school in Lawrence in the ’70s and ’80s, moved to San Francisco and then spent a lot of time trying to persuade his California wife to move to Lawrence. Berman said he is just waiting to finalize the details on the liquor license before he takes over operations of the Jackpot.

• Speaking of Johnny Cash, one of his favorite phrases was “Sooey!” I’ll let you speculate why this next item brings that old hog call to mind. The new Dunkin’ Donuts location at 1400 W. Sixth St. is now open. The store — which is owned by the Patel family that operates the other Dunkin’ location on West 23rd — will have a ribbon cutting at 7:30 a.m. Friday, complete with the Lawrence High Band. The Patels are asking customers to bring a donation to Harvesters and Just Food from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday. Everybody who does will receive a free travel mug and coupon for a free coffee. Plus, the Patels are donating $2,000 to Harvesters and Just Food and $500 to the Lawrence High Band. In the meantime, Sooey!