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Downtown restaurant closes, but new concept with big outdoor area set to take its place
Fans of one of downtown Lawrence’s fancier restaurants may be temporarily disappointed by the news coming from The Eldridge Hotel, but fans of people-watching on Massachusetts Street are getting a boost. The Eldridge has closed its upscale restaurant Ten, but plans call for a new eatery that will include likely the largest outdoor dining area in downtown.
Eldridge general manager Nancy Longhurst told me the hotel management has decided to close Ten restaurant and turn it into a “completely new concept.” Longhurst wasn’t ready to provide any details about the new concept, such as what its menu would include or how the vibe would be different from Ten, which featured steaks, pasta, seafood and a contemporary American menu.
But Longhurst did confirm that the hotel plans to turn the empty lot immediately south of the hotel into a large outdoor dining area. But don’t expect just rows of tables and chairs. Instead, plans call for a heavy amount of landscaping and other amenities.
“It will be like a park,” Longhurst said. “There won’t be like a big structure there or anything.”
The hotel’s kitchen is being enlarged so that it can serve the needs of both the restaurant and the new outdoor space, she said. The outdoor menu will feature some lighter fare, including salads and sandwiches, plus patrons will be able to enjoy a variety of wine, beers and cocktails.
Longhurst, who also is a manager for The Oread hotel, said she thinks the new outdoor area will be a hit in downtown.
“I’ve definitely learned being at The Oread with all of its terraces, people love to be outside,” she said. “This downtown area with fresh air, music and being right on Mass, I think it is going to be a great package deal.”
The project has been in the works for awhile. We reported in December 2016 that the hotel and Lawrence architect Paul Werner filed a plan with City Hall that would have allowed for about 20 outdoor tables for the area. I’m not sure those are exactly the plans The Eldridge plans to follow this time. Longhurst said she wasn’t sure how many people the outdoor area would be able to accommodate, and I haven’t yet seen new plans filed at City Hall for the space.
Expect the project to move quickly. Longhurst said the plan is to have the restaurant open by graduation season, which is late May.
In addition to the restaurant, the work also will extend into The Jayhawker bar and the lobby of the hotel. However, Longhurst said both of those areas are going to just be “refreshed” rather than receive a complete makeover.
As for the decision to end the run of Ten restaurant, Longhurst said the eatery was going on 13 years old and management was looking to take the space in a different direction.
“It will be wonderful,” Longhurst said of the plans.
In other news and notes from around town:
While we are mentioning hotels, it does appear that the Country Inn & Suites has opened for business in the last few days. The hotel on the eastern edge of Lawrence — it is just west of 23rd and O’Connell Road where Don’s Steakhouse used to be — has put out the “Now Open” sign. The new facility adds 89 rooms to Lawrence’s hotel inventory. The hotel is part of the Radisson chain of hotels. In addition to including all the normal amenities of a modern hotel, this one also includes an indoor pool area. It will be worth keeping an eye on the area next to the hotel. It has been approved for restaurant use, but work on that part of the project hasn’t begun, and, the last I heard, a restaurant hadn’t yet been found for the site. The same ownership group that has that property also owns the former Knights of Columbus building just to the east of the hotel. So, there is the possibility for significant redevelopment in the area.
Country Inn & Suites is the first of three hotels that are scheduled to open in Lawrence. A Tru by Hilton hotel is under construction north of Sixth and Wakarusa streets, and a Best Western Plus is being built near Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence.
One bit of housekeeping. Town Talk will be off the rest of the week, while I take care of some other business. I’m not at liberty to divulge too much, but I will note that Wednesday, 3.14.18, is Pi Day. Perhaps I will be active that day, although I promise you it won’t involve solving any equations. (Unless we are finally recognizing the math involved in getting two dips of ice cream stacked on a single pie a la mode.) See you next week.