Archive for Monday, November 14, 2011

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

November 14, 2011, 9:01 a.m. Updated November 14, 2011, 12:48 p.m.


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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!


Boston_Corbett 6 years, 2 months ago

Say it ain't a town without any restaurants we can actually have another one open up without wide-open tax subsidies?

Wow. Who would have thunk it?

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 2 months ago

On the other hand, Dunkin Doughnuts is open! And I live close by! I has a happy!

Matt Schwartz 6 years, 2 months ago

Not happy. If you try to go across the intersection of sixth and michigan going north, it's a cluster because of traffic turning left into duncan doughnuts....get fat somewhere else people.

Matt Schwartz 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm sorry. ... Dunkin Doughnuts.... go get fat on 23 rd street.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

I was the late night donut man at Winchell's on Mass St. years ago.

I hate donuts now.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

1) I can tell a somewhat interesting, at least to me, story about police officers getting coffee and donuts at Winchell's in 1977 or 1978!

When I first started working at Winchell's, I was told that police officers in uniform were never, ever to be charged for anything.

That was my job, to give the police all the free coffee and donuts they wanted. And, I did my job.

It was explained to me that the reason for that store policy was to get as many police officers to stop by the donut shop as possible, for safety reasons.

Since I was a middle of the night employee that worked alone and the store policy cost me nothing personally, that was fine with me.

There are a few things that I remember about that store policy.

One is that it appeared to work rather well. I always had at least a couple police officers stop by in the middle of the night, so you would have been very stupid to rob the Winchell's donut shop because you never knew when a police car was going to be pulling into the parking lot.

That made me feel very safe.

Once two police officers arrived and told me what they wanted. I had never seen one of them before. I quickly supplied them with their order, and then something very strange happened.

The police officer that I had never seen before pulled out his wallet!

I said, "Don't worry about it."

And, the other police officer told him, "It's OK."

The police officer that had expected to pay looked a bit surprised, but accepted the reality that coffee and donuts are free, so stop by often, please!

And many police officers did stop by, probably because at that time there were very few places in Lawrence that were open 24/7 where you could go in and get a quick cup of coffee in the middle of the night.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 2 months ago

2) And then once in the middle of the night, everything changed.

A police officer came in, placed his order, and I quickly supplied it. And then, he insisted that he must pay! I tried to explain the store policy of free coffee and donuts for police officers, but he insisted on paying for his coffee and donut anyway.

I didn't understand this! That is the store policy!

Then, the police officer informed me that the chief of police had heard about the free coffee and donuts policy at Winchell's for any police officer, and he didn't like it.

That ended the argument between me and the police officer, and so I took his money.

It was very obvious from that moment on that every single police officer in town knew all about how the policy of free coffee and donuts for police officers at Winchell's had ended.

I suppose a memo had been sent to every police officer, and they were all able to read. After that, the police officers all paid for their coffee and donuts just like everybody else.

But, there still were an awful lot of police officers that stopped by in the middle of the night for a quick cup of coffee. And, quite often, a donut too.

And so, back in those days, I got to know quite a few of the police officers in Lawrence by face, and years later that became part of one of the most interesting situations that I have ever been involved in.

But, that's another story.

therxbandit 6 years, 2 months ago

Very sad. The Jackpot was a great place for smaller local acts to be able to book shows at. The dance parties (in the summer, at least) were always fairly crowded and fun. Unfortunately, I don't think it's really the gas that's stopping bands. Bands are still touring, they're just playing The B'neck or the Granada (if they're big enough to be profitable). Saw Hit the Lights two weeks ago at the Jackpot, a band that could normally bring a lot of people to a show, but there were maybe 30-40 people there. The Jackpot is too small for those kinds of acts.

However, I loved the small atmosphere. Can anyone confirm that the Jackpot's booking schedule will be enacted as planned? As in, shows already booked for December will still be happening?

WID 6 years, 2 months ago

if there were only 30-40 people there then i would guess the jackpot really isn't too small for those kinds of bands.

therxbandit 6 years, 2 months ago

What I'm saying is that...well...the Jackpot doesn't promote like the Granada or The Bottleneck does. Plus, I've known people who will deliberately miss a show at the Bottleneck because it's "too cramped".

So, that said, sometimes I do believe that a low turn out can truly be fault of the venue.

knayte 6 years, 2 months ago

Sad indeed, some of the best shows I ever saw were at the Jackpot. The dance parties were kind of hit-or-miss, but the last night of Neon before it was killed off was AMAZING.

The Jackpot seemed to fill the spot between Not Big Enough for The Granada and Not Weird Enough for The Replay.

LogicMan 6 years, 2 months ago

A combo Olive Garden + Red Lobster would have me and the hive there in droves! Build it, and we will come! A much needed diversion, and jobs and taxes to boot.

pace 6 years, 2 months ago

I am picky about food, especially seafood. Most seafood is overcooked here and across the country. Given that, I have had some good meals at red lobster. sent one fish back. I order carefully.

Bob Forer 6 years, 2 months ago

You're right, 75. For the food snobs of Lawrence, only a handful of restaurants, if any, are worthy of their palate. But there are a lot of us, including many East Coast and West Coast transplants, who acknowledge the reality of our geography, and accept what we have here in Lawrence, and, in fact, enjoy it.

somedude20 6 years, 2 months ago

No more emo! Yes, life is sad and your pops won't give you ten bucks so you can talk ole Mary Jane Rottencrotch out to BK but please don't sing about it!

MarcoPogo 6 years, 2 months ago

Looks like someone hasn't seen a show in a while.

somedude20 6 years, 2 months ago

where is that someone? lets beat him up...Marco!

CHEEZIT 6 years, 2 months ago

So those lobster's walking around in those tanks aren't real? I knew the wizard had to be behind a curtain controlling those things!!!

Bob Forer 6 years, 2 months ago

Funny how the developers represented (and implicitly threatened) to the city that without a handout, the lot would remain vacant and continue to be an eyesore. Of course that was a fraudulent bluff designed to extract as much profit as possible out of the deal.

Also, it looks like Lowes might eventually be built despite their failure to obtain approval from the city for their first location of choice. Its time to say no to corporate welfare, while keeping open a little discretion for the rare case where incentives might actually help Lawrence citizens,. e.g., a huge project by a proven company that actually provides (and does simply not promise) lots of high paying jobs.

Joe Adams 6 years, 2 months ago

Did they announce something about Lowe's? Just curious as I hadn't seen anything in regards to them since they removed their request for a new location.

Bob Forer 6 years, 2 months ago

It sounded like Lowes was ready to move on a new location before they abruptly cancelled plans because of the recession. Nonetheless, they changed their initial stance and were making plans to build on a second site with no tax giveaways until other considerations--the economy--nixed the deal.

They'll be back.

hipgrrrrl 6 years, 2 months ago

The one and only time I ever ate at Red Lobster, we got oysters on the half shell. The server didn't tell us they were irradiated and I have to say that the one irradiated oyster I ate was the vilest thing I have ever ingested - and I adore oysters. Just thinking about it makes me sick.

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 2 months ago

The Olive Garden thing has run it's coarse I think, we have just as good places right here in Lawrence, check them out, if you havn't already

gatekeeper 6 years, 2 months ago

I 2nd that. I live Lawrence, work in Lenexa and will drive out to Olathe in rush hour traffic just to get Popeyes for dinner.

gccs14r 6 years, 2 months ago

hurk Popeye's is like chewing on warm Crisco.

Cait McKnelly 6 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence wants to attract retirees and there isn't a single, old fashioned buffet in this town. My husband and I were in Topeka on Friday for a doctor's appointment and afterward had lunch at Coyote Canyon. The average age in that place was at least 60. Ran into the sweetest old man at the buffet over the beef liver and he tells me they are leftovers from Thursday because "liver is always on Thursdays". Obviously he eats there nearly every day. You want to attract retirees Lawrence? Get a Golden Corral, Ryans, Homeown Buffet or Coyote Canyon. And no, CiCi's Pizza and Chinese buffets don't cut it. These people need to go eat cheap somewhere on a daily basis and stretch their Social Security dollar.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 2 months ago

There have been plenty of those buffets and they always fail. (Furr's, Bonanza, Shoney's, etc.)

bevy 6 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, the Furr's only lasted what - twenty years? Twenty-five? We need a good homestyle food restaurant - and buffet would be great. We are going to Topeka on the rare occasions we do go out these days. It's usually to Coyote Canyon. MMMMMM steak.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 2 months ago

While you are correct that Furr's was there for quite some time, something apparently didn't work out, right?

Bob Forer 6 years, 2 months ago

What didn't work out was that Lawrence started growing tremendously and their prime location at the corner of 23rd and Iowa--perhaps the busiest and most expensive real estate in Lawrence--became too costly to house a moderately price restaurant. Wasn't for lack of business. The rent just got too damn high.

I agree. I think there is room is Lawrence for a buffet style chain restaurant that is moderately priced, and serves adequate food. Nothing that I would frequent very often, if ever, but I think that type of restaurant does have a niche in this town. It will appeal not only to the retired crowd, which seems to like this type of venue, but to families and students looking for a decent non-fast food place to eat with cheaper-than-downtown and/or the higher priced chain restaurants.

Bob Forer 6 years, 2 months ago

"These people need to go eat cheap somewhere on a daiy basis and stretch their Social Security dollar."

I disagree to the extent that folks that rely solely on Social Security can't afford to eat out at all. But there are a lot of retirees in this town--perhaps most of them-- with pensions and savings to augment their Social Security. Some of them, in fact, might be able to afford high priced restaurants every night, but since they are the proverbial thrifty Kansan (read "tightfisted""), they have a hard time shelling out big bucks for a meal, but they enjoy the pleasures of dining out. A Golden Corral, Ryans, Hometown Buffet or Coyote Canyon would be just the ticket. Big portions of non-exciting but thoroughly edible food Kansans love, at reasonable prices.

And BTW, I don't use tightfisted in a pejorative sense. Most of these folks either lived through or heard horror stories about the Great Depression, and respect the dollar for the hard work it took to earn.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 2 months ago

OG and RL are pretty lame, but Popeye's......that's some food for ya. I just love their mac and cheese. Broke my heart when the one in Topeka over by Topeka West HS closed.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 2 months ago

We're living it & you're reading about it. You lose.

pizzapete 6 years, 2 months ago

Good luck to the new owners of the Jackpot. Forget pool and dart, boce ball is where the money is.

true_patriot 6 years, 2 months ago

People just don't come out to live music as much and it's true most everywhere with some exceptions (like Austin). KC more so than Lawrence. London from what I hear.

In general, it's dying, and may become a rare niche phenomenon for a while, anachronistic. Maybe once it's dead enough it will actually be hip and ironic enough for people to go be rebels and put on and attend live music events, then maybe they'll discover the essence of live music for real and it won't be a hipster attraction at all.

More pool tables and dartboards and bad food. Ugh.

Lee Eldridge 6 years, 2 months ago

Have been in Lawrence since 86. The music scene runs in cycles. I'm sure it will pick up again.

Jillster 6 years, 2 months ago

So let me get this straight, Chad -- people who enjoy a donut and a good cup of coffee are pigs? I know you like to joke around here, and sometimes you are pretty funny, but this is kind of crass.

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