Archive for Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Town Talk: Local Burger closes Lawrence location; keeping an eye on Steak ’n Shake; idea of Clinton Lake resort gets mention by state wildlife and parks leader

September 4, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• Lawrence hamburger fans, your burgers may be a little less local in the future. Local Burger, the restaurant near Seventh and Vermont streets that made a name for itself by using locally raised beef, has closed.

That’s not necessarily a surprise. In early August, we reported Local Burger was likely going to close its Vermont Street location. But owner Hilary Brown said the company was interested in reopening in a new location in Lawrence. Well, there’s no sign of that happening currently.

The restaurant recently auctioned much of its kitchen equipment, and my attempts to chat with Brown about the future haven’t been successful.

At one point, Brown said she may open a Local Burger food truck that would be a way to keep the Local Burger menu alive in Lawrence until she could find another location. She also mentioned that she was exploring locations in the Kansas City market for a Local Burger restaurant. So, we’ll keep an eye out for that type of news.

All this is going on while business seems to be good at Brown’s other business — a firm that produces veggie burgers. As we reported in August, Brown’s veggie burger brand Hilary’s Eat Well is being sold in Whole Foods stores across the country. My understanding is the company also is in negotiations to get the burgers in a major chain of discount stores that has a grocery department as well.

I’ll report back if I hear more on either front.

• While we’re talking hamburgers, here’s an item that you can take for whatever you think it is worth. The Steak ‘n Shake location at 3111 Nieder Road in south Lawrence is on the market.

Steak ‘n Shake has a long-term lease on the spot, but it is seeking to sub-lease the store location to someone else, according to a published real estate listing from the Cassidy/Turley Commercial Real Estate firm.

But Steak ‘n Shake is very much open. I tried to reach the owner of the Lawrence franchise, but had no luck. A manager at the store told me several days ago she had heard of no plans to close the Lawrence location, and said she would have the owner get back in touch with me.

So, who knows what the future holds for that location, which is near the entrance to the SuperTarget shopping center area. I just pass the information along because I know how much you all like food news — and speculation.

• If you like speculation, it appears an oldie but a goody has some new life to it: The idea of a resort complex at Clinton Lake.

An alert reader pointed out to me that Michael Pearce, the top-notch outdoor writer for the Wichita Eagle, reported in one of his blogs that the idea of a Clinton Lake resort is getting some discussion.

Pearce had the joy of attending a meeting in Great Bend for the Kansas Wildlife Parks and Tourism Commission. (Some guys get all the luck.) He reported that Robin Jennison, who leads the state wildlife and parks department, indicated the “state is looking into sponsoring a resort to be built at a Kansas lake. Clinton Reservoir currently seems to be the most likely choice.”

Pearce didn’t report any more information than that in his blog. But the subject certainly has created quite a bit of discussion over the years.

The most recent speculation about a resort at Clinton Lake came in 2006 when the Kansas Department of Commerce commissioned a report to study the potential for resort development at Kansas lakes.

Clinton Lake ranked high in that report. The report found that Clinton Lake’s proximity to population areas, along with an expected surge in baby boomers coming to the area, makes it a good choice for a resort development. The report estimated that demand would exist for a 150-room hotel with 18,000 square feet of meeting/ballroom space. In other words, not a full-blown convention center but a start on one. The report also mentioned there was potential to build some primary residences around the lake, a resort spa, more marina slips and an 18-hole golf course. (Current golf course operators, I believe, would tell you that it would make more sense to stick your mouth over a rotating sprinkler head than to open a new golf course at the moment.)

Before that report, there actually was a pretty serious proposal in 2001 to build a resort on state park land. A group of out-of-town developers proposed building a $20 million, 150-room hotel and conference center on the shores of Clinton Lake.

Supposedly, they raised $15 million of the $20 million needed to fund the project, but threw in the towel after they couldn’t get local government officials to show any enthusiasm for the project. At least that’s what I reported. I don’t have much recollection of the story. Our archives show it ran on Sept. 12, 2001, which means exactly no one — including me — paid any attention to it.

But this morning I read up on it some more, and the development group was getting pretty creative in trying to make the project work. It even pitched a plan for Kansas University to actually own the hotel as a non-profit entity, and the development group would run it for a fee. I don’t think that ever got very far, but it is intriguing.

It is kind of funny to think now that the project was getting resistance from elected officials over a request for about $5 million in incentives, with a good chunk of that being the extension of city infrastructure to the site. As the proposed recreation center project in northwest Lawrence has shown, extending infrastructure isn’t a big deal, if you get the right people excited about a project.

If you want a get a kick though, read a couple of the stories from the time period. It was a bit of a different time — before TIFs and special taxing districts — in terms of what governments were willing to do to attract a business project.


boxers_or_briefs 5 years, 5 months ago

Too bad about local burger. It was good except for when I had to pay above average prices,

chootspa 5 years, 5 months ago

And the fact that they didn't know how to run the business financially, sure. Other than those things.

kernal 5 years, 5 months ago

Hilary's Veggie Burgers are sold locally at the Merc and I think the two Hy-Vee stores.

I really hope she reopens somewhere downtown.

We as consumers can count on paying more for organic versus non-organic, but I think the better taste is well worth it.

blindrabbit 5 years, 5 months ago

Convention Center at Clinton. Clinton is a Federal Reservoir with no private ownership to build a lakefront style resort; what would be the incentives for people to come? Sounds kinda "pie-in-the-sky" to me!

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure I follow your question. The corps would have to approve a long-term lease for any development on federal ground, but that isn't too uncommon. I think the city got a 100-year lease to develop the ground where Eagle Bend is at today. Thanks, Chad

labmonkey 5 years, 5 months ago

Maybe MOJO's can open up back there? Hopefully? Best damn wings in the world. I would love some Bayou Burn and Code Red wings.

blogme 5 years, 5 months ago

I second that Labmonkey! Love the Code Red. Perfect match of hot with a little sweetness. Man that take me back!

parrothead8 5 years, 5 months ago

It's nice of you to acknowledge that it's liberals who buy from businesses that support local farmers. Do conservatives have something against America in general, or just American farmers specifically?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

So, anti, who was it that made you go there and buy their burgers?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

The other beauty of the free market is that you don't have to cheer the closing of a restaurant you don't like-- all you have to do is go elsewhere.

Trumbull 5 years, 5 months ago

"Local Blogger Hostile to Small Business".

Bud Stagg 5 years, 5 months ago

Think of the property, sales and other taxes that would be generated by a resort and private residences around Clinton Lake. No need to keep that thing undeveloped. I'd buy a house there.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Yea, all that open green space really sucks. I sure wish we could fill it in with some ticky tacky shacks, and have it subsidized by the taxpayers.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

No, I mean all the green space that currently isn't either flooded or paved over.

Clickker 5 years, 5 months ago

Moore Burger was near 6th...not 23rd.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 5 months ago

True that. First two-fisted burgers I ever ate.

riverdrifter 5 years, 5 months ago

Texas burger basket. Sigh. I know there's a Vista in Manhattan, but where else?

Paul R Getto 5 years, 5 months ago

The one in Topeka turned into a Freddie's.

Mark Kostner 5 years, 5 months ago

Clinton would make sense for a resort as the city limits of Lawrence and the SLT are close by and KU and the lake serving as a draw. A lake resort has been bandied about for decades. I'm surprised, looking back' that when the state decided to get into the gaming business that it didn't promote one of its regional casinos at a lakeside park. Since the southeast casino never got off the ground I wonder if the fourth casino would be in the mix, either state owned or an off res Indian casino. At any rate a 150 room hotel, golf course, and real estate development is quite an ambitious undertaking though at the pace government moves the economy will be booming before the thing is in operation.

blindrabbit 5 years, 5 months ago

clawhorn and Kansasexile : My issue deals with approximation to the lake, access to the lake and boating etc. I guess when I think of a resort and convention center, I think about those in Missouri, Lake of the Ozarks and Oklahoma, Grand Lake or the Minnesota thing. Trying to envision something approximating that at Clinton (maybe a hotel, restaurant, golf course , meeting rooms) but what is the Lake "draw" other than a view?

patkindle 5 years, 5 months ago

i never like seeing a local business close but if a place that sells real hamburgers is having trouble how would you expect one that sells high priced fake burgers to succeed ?

Clark Coan 5 years, 5 months ago

Speaking of outdoor recreation, the sandy beach below the new hydroelectric plant will only be there a few more weeks and then it will be gone forever. Once they start operation in October it will disappear for good I recall a great beach party down there in 1980s. Volley ball, frisbee, bonfire, music from a boombox, watermelon, etc. Also, right now you can walk to the island without hardly getting your feet wet.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 5 months ago

Should have a town sandbar party. Local restaurants could send food and Dolph would buy a couple kegs.

Scott Morgan 5 years, 5 months ago

Build a resort on Clinton, Melverne, Glen Elder, Pomana and they will come. For that matter build a horse wagon camping trail area and those folks would flock to our state. Horse owners who ride trail are the most ripped off tax payers in our nation.

If your wondering, there currently is no trail riding areas where you can camp. Sort of the old west stuff.

Many of us folks not in wheelchairs, but limited mobility can not use Clinton. Not sure of others, but I go to Missouri and spend bucks and bucks on water front vacations.

I would, no can't say this anymore am retiring on Lake of the Ozarks, good bye Kansas.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

"I would, no can't say this anymore am retiring on Lake of the Ozarks, good bye Kansas."

Lake of the Ozarks is a prime example of what happens when a lake area gets overdeveloped. I don't want to be anywhere near that area during peak periods. Enjoy the gridlock.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm pretty sure you can camp along a horse trail at Melvern Lake in its state park. I've seen it many times. Great way to spend a day. I anchor out in a cove and watch the horses graze on the grass.

Eugehne Normandin 5 years, 5 months ago

I thought Rockhaven was a trail riding camping area ??

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

farewell Local Burger, it was a nice run. Big Mac wins again.

jonas_opines 5 years, 5 months ago

Wow, political hatred is so entrenched into some posters' minds that they root for a business to fail because they think it's too . . . liberal? Good lord. Not just "I don't want to eat there personally," but "I'm glad they went out of business so no one else gets to eat there."

Seriously, if you step on ants do you randomly pick every other one and decide that those are the communist ants? Or do you just decide that those are the red ones, and step on those?

msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

"some posters' minds that they root for a business to fail because they think it's too . . . liberal"

yeah,it shows their truer colors. They make a super hero out of the little guy(women) who has what it takes to start a business, and then they accuse them of "you didn't build that" and now they are little simpletons celebrating that person closing their business.

It isn't like they are just showing their true colors because everyone knew it anyway, they have just confirmed it.

Bob Forer 5 years, 5 months ago

Ate at local burger once shortly after they opened. Had a burger made from Buffalo meat, I think. It appears to have been cooked, and overcooked at that, earlier in the day and then heated up in a microwave. It wasn't very good. I never returned.

NewKansan 5 years, 5 months ago

I used to see the guy in there too. I don't know what his issues are, but he never bothered me or anyone else while I was in there eating. To me, it was a guy with special needs that they were nice to. Now, if he was a problem, that's another story. I don't really see what the issue is.

Just because they were nice to someone means that the people making the food are on LSD or marijuana? I don't understand...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Dennis is certainly eccentric, but from what I've heard, he performs the tasks assigned him quite adequately.

And why did you transition from attacking this restaurant for hiring a mentally disabled person to accusing them of using LSD?

Get a grip, dude.

MyName 5 years, 5 months ago

It's really awesome to read all of these comments from people with no sense trying to link their pet political ideas to people's hamburger buying preferences. Do you all have like a set of flash cards so I can tell which small business is ran by liberal commies and which is a secret corporate facist front? I only like to eat my hippie burgers on the third Thursday of the month and I don't want to get mixed up.

Or maybe the business closing has something to do with the fact that restaurants are relatively low margin, go in and out of fashion all the time, and even well run restaurants can go on a downward spiral quickly? Nahh, it can't have anything to do with actual free market type stuff: bring on the Freedom Fries!

Bob Forer 5 years, 5 months ago

"and even well run restaurants can go on a downward spiral quickly? Nahh, it can't have anything to do with actual free market type stuff: bring on the Freedom Fries!" ......

Perhaps. But IMHO, this was not a well run restaurant.

BringBackMark 5 years, 5 months ago

I think of resorts such as this being on larger, clearner, bodies of water. I thought it was a great idea 10 years ago or so. Now I think it's too late and it'll just be a monument to the dying reservoirs in Kansas.

JSDAD 5 years, 5 months ago

Ironic that Local burger used a K.C. auction company to run their auction.

NewKansan 5 years, 5 months ago

The unfortunate part about Local Burger closing down is that they cater to those that have food allergies. There are a number of those out there with beef allergies that can't eat a regular beef burger. However, it looks like the market wasn't big enough to cater to that demographic. I didn't mind the prices being a little higher because it was a different kind of restaurant.

To be honest, I could care less about a person's political views when it comes to dining. Good food/service, I go back. Bad food/service, I don't go back. I try to keep all the other stuff out of it. I am definitely not someone you would call a "liberal hippie," but I am sad to see it go.

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