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New owners to reopen Prairie Rock with same name

26 January 2012 Elgin Illinois 36 Comments

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36 Responses to “New owners to reopen Prairie Rock with same name”

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  1. RS says:

    The building, shuttered for a year and a half, will reopen next month. Its latest incarnation: The Prairie Rock Grill.

    Matt Lyons, co-owner with his dad Mike Lyons, said he fell in love with the 3,500-square-foot bar and grill side of the building on Grove Avenue near Festival Park and its attached beer garden. Lyons will not reopen the microbrewery but plans to serve craft and microbrew beer on tap as a nod to the original business concept.

    “I’m really, really excited about it,” Lyons said. “I think it’s a great thing.”

    Lyons is renting from original Prairie Rock owner Mike Origer, who has agreed to let him keep the name if he holds four events per year and donates proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin.

  2. John says:

    “You can get a burger and a beer anywhere,” Lyons said. “I want it to be a really good burger and a unique beer served by a really good person.”

    Love it.

  3. RS says:

    You can already get really good burgers and beer in Downtown Elgin. Public House, Prime, Walnut Speakeasy…

    What’s a lot harder to find is brick oven pizza. New York or New Haven style. Now that would be something to get excited about.

    • It sure would, as would Greek, Korean, Sushi, Lebanese, or any many other international cuisines that we lack downtown right now.

      Great. Now I’m hungry!

  4. JP says:

    Man, I wish that the microbrewery was coming back, the closest outlet that we have for local beer is Dundee. I never even got to try it, as I moved to Elgin months after Prairie Rock closed. Still, it’s nice to see businesses opening in Elgin and I hope they do well.

    Also, shuttered for a year and a half?! Was this article written in the future or am I confused? I thought that the Roadhouse closed last July [2011], and that Prairie Rock closed in 2009.

  5. paul says:

    Sincerely good luck to you, Matt and Mike. You are gonna need it. Renting from the well financed guy who couldn’t make a go of it, I hope you are better financed!
    Speaking of finances, whatever happened to Mad Maggies former location that soft opened last September(???) and was going to full open late fall until the city put the kibosh on them for a $10K repair on a long out of service unnecessary unneeded elevator. Did they already throw in the towel?
    Seriously, anyone have any tumbleweed props you could let loose on Grove Ave? After a long forty year decline downtown Elgin has never looked as desolate as it does now.

  6. WestSideJen says:

    I want a Groupon…maybe I would go then.

    • paul says:

      Prairie Rock probably can’t afford to pay it’s customers. That is what Groupon is all about. Offer a 50% discount and Groupon takes half of the remaining revenue. Hardly any business’s profit margin is that high to sustain such a hit to their top line. HotVouch is an attempt to alleviate Groupon’s heavy burden.

      • Yeah. After talking to some other businesses who have used Groupon I’ve decided not to use them to promote my business. I’m too tiny to afford to cut the kinds of deals for customers that Groupon is asking for.

  7. Amy Johnson says:

    Didn’t the original owner get all kinds of city financing? I hope they are getting paid back something out of the deal too.
    And what’s with the 4 events a year? What kind of events? I don’t get why there are always so many strings attached when somebody wants to open a business in Elgin.

  8. Jane says:

    Just heard that Craig Muzard of Gasthaus will employed at the new Prarie Rock. Are the owners that clueless?? Take a look at the Gast’s clientele on any given night… I guarantee it’s not the kind of people Prarie Rock wants to host. I am furious and disgusted that he has been hired… There is nothing “family oriented” about him. That place will have nothing but trouble with him there.

    • One Vote says:

      That’s Elgin for you. So proud of the tattoo parlor and the electric guitar shop.
      You’ll recall the cage fighting next door to the old Prairie Rock.
      Wholesome entertainment it isn’t. And who takes kids to the casino?
      The Disney ship sailed from Elgin long ago.
      Say, did you hear that the city is going to ween DNA from the government teet? They are considering a neighborhood tax to pay TH’s salary.
      Sweet, huh? If you do business downtown you pay for her services, whether you want to or not. Sort of like funding the Chamber with the biz license tax.
      What do you call forced redistribution of wealth?

      • Craig says:

        OV, I’ve heard rumors of a new tax to fund the DNA, but I haven’t seen anything substantial. Do you have any sources on this?

        Also forced redistribution of wealth is called taxes, and as you said, is always forced. Remember that behind every law, is always the point of a gun.

        • One Vote says:

          Just the snippet from the BocaJump article that reads, “The Downtown Neighborhood Association plans to be funded by TIF money through 2015, but the agency has an eye on establishing a special assessment area to provide ongoing funding for the organization beginning in 2016.”
          I read the “special assessment” to mean businesses in that area. Then again, special assessment could mean any area they choose to fund DNA, as we learned with the business tax amnesty zone.

          • Chuck Keysor says:

            Of course, at the most recent council session, the funding of the DNA was discussed. And the idea that the DNA would wean themselves off of the City payroll by creating a special taxing district was covered at length.

            Right now, the DNA gets $125,000 from the City/taxpayers. According to the City’s business license database (obtained by FOIA), there are 135 businesses in the downtown neighborhood. If $125,000 per year were to be evenly divided among 135 businesses, that would turn into $926 per business.

            Certainly there are quite a few ways to figure out what percentage each business would pay. I will bet however you slice this pie, there will be a lot of hopping mad business owners who won’t like this.

            But, alas, who are the downtown businesses going to turn to for help? The Chamber? The DNA? City Hall? No one will help them. And seeing how none of the downtown businesses have been willing to fight city hall in the recent past, they’ll just have to shell out the dough, or move out.

            Of course, we could just let the owners of these downtown buildings fend for themselves, and promote their own properties, and dispense with the taxpayer funded DNA entirely. That would be the right path to take. But, with our present liberal dominated/pour money into the downtown rat-hole council, that will never happen.


      • Elgin should be proud of the tattoo parlor and the electric guitar shop. Top Notch regularly contributes to the community via fundraisers and it’s truly a “Top Notch” studio, with skilled artists and high standards for cleanliness and safety.

        As for “the electric guitar shop,” Fat Cat Guitars has been in business for several years and is run by Elginites who are also great people with sensible business practices. Scott’s custom guitars are amazingly crafted works of art as well. My son took guitar lessons with them and I highly recommend their school of music to anyone who wants to really learn how to play.

        I have yet to visit Elgin Knit Works, mostly because I’m not a knitter, but there’s another fine example of a new small business trying to enhance our downtown instead of sitting in front of computer screens complaining about it. I plan to stop in there soon just to see what they’re all about.

        I never went to the Prairie Rock so I don’t have much to say on that, but my family (child included) frequents other downtown eateries in favor of dining on the same old same old found up and down Randall Road.

        I guess “wholesome” is in the eye of the beholder.

        The tax issue is indeed something to pay attention to though. Let’s see what comes of that in the near future.

        • One Vote says:

          …and judging by the vacancies and ghost town appearance of downtown you might consider yourself a minority beholder.
          Somehow the armored vehicle the city bought with drug seizure proceeds hasn’t improved the safety quotient. Nor has the burlesque zombie fest made Elgin seem more family-friendly.
          [snark]I just don’t understand it.

          • Fair enough. Not everyone will understand it. I get that. As for safety, I work downtown at night and have for the last four years. I lock up and leave my place of business after dark, usually alone. I’ve never been harassed or felt unsafe. I judge by my own experiences, not by what others who don’t visit or frequent the area have to say about it.

            Perhaps if more of the downtown detractors would put energy into patronizing those businesses that fit their interests (face it… we all have to eat sometime), more like-minded businesses would see a reason to move in and fill some of those vacancies.

            In the end your money is yours and mine is mine and we’ll each spend it how we choose and that’s fine. Consider your comment that it’s “Elgin for you” to be proud of Top Notch and Fat Cat. Should they be prouder to leave those stores vacant instead? You talk about the “vacancies and ghost town appearance” while at the same time deeming those businesses who do choose to occupy some of those vacancies unsuitable because they don’t measure up to your standard of wholesomeness. Which would you prefer… an empty downtown or businesses trying to make it better?

            Maybe I’m the one who just doesn’t understand it.

            As a side note, because intonation and body language can’t happen via the typed word, I’m not trying to have an argument here. I’m just trying to present an alternate viewpoint.

          • Anonymous says:

            Always learning. Today I learn it is okay to disparage employees of the Gaust Haus by name because evidently the Gaust Haus has undesirable clientele of which the new Prairie Rock should not aspire for.
            Then a former council member pats himself on the back for saving Elgin from unwanted clientele by disallowing use of a vacant building resulting in what is now a vacant lot. (didn’t pay as well as the casino?)
            I never been in the Gaust Haus so I don’t know what kind of clientele they have, but given city government is currently subsidizing low income housing construction in downtown Elgin, that might be the type of clientele the Prairie Rock should target. (don’t fight city hall!)
            I’m not arguing. I’m just giving an alternate opinion that might not coincide with your opinion. (can I borrow that, Christina?)
            I love this new age defined civility. I get it now!

          • Craig says:

            Well said Christina. Sometimes people are too judgmental when it comes to people and places that aren’t in their normal course of business.

            Perhaps we should let people decide what businesses to frequent rather than an “enlightened” group of people in suits?

    • Gene Simmons says:

      Wow, if somebody calls out Craig from Gasthaus, it’s most likely one of the thieves he released from employment.

  9. Terry Gavin says:

    Oh well O V it could be worse remember when a proposal to open a “gentlemen’s club” in the old Croker Theater was made back in the mid-90’s. When the idea was pitched to us on the city council back then it was portrayed as a high end strip club, no pun intended. After reviewing loads of reports on what was called sob’s (sexually oriented business’) negative impact near casino’s or downtown locations we moved to block proposal by using zoning.

    Believe it or not there was criticism from some in the community that we didn’t welcome this club with open arms, again no pun intended.

    • One Vote says:

      Thanks for the history lesson. Terry…and standing up for what’s right when you were in office.
      You know, you ought to write up some of this history. I’d love to hear all about the New Century quasi-governmental Partnership. Maybe we could learn from our mistakes.

    • Terry Gavin says:

      Of course I meant Crocker not Croker.

  10. Terry Gavin says:

    Thanks OV, you’ve got a good recall of the history of our city too! Oh the New Century Partnership does bring back some memories both good & bad but learn from our mistakes? No way with liberals it’s always about “good” intentions not the bad unintended consequences! For instance we did some incentives for big projects to occupy empty buildings in the 90’s of which at least two are thriving today. But alas we made a few mistakes as well, today every type of “job” incentive is approved with only Prigge voting no. Yet while handing out cash incentives, when we’ve got no money, the council jacks up the cost of doing business with new bigger taxes. So basically the city giveth with one hand & taketh away with the other. Foolish to say the least.

  11. Terry Gavin says:

    Christina, I don’t know how long you’ve been downtown or even for that matter what type business you own,please let us know, but I think what OV is referring to is the frustration many long time residents are feeling about downtown. For the last 5 or so decades Elgin has struggled mightly to bring our downtown back to what it was in the old days as a regional shopping location for everything. When shopping malls like Springhill & Woodfield opened everything changed & our downtown suffered. Since then the city has spent $10’s of millions trying to recover from a shift in the way retail operations work. Over the last 10 - 20 years with help from the riverboat we doubled down & spent even more money & still the work continues with very little signs a of return on investment.

    I’ve been a patron of downtown business’ for 20 years & for a few years even had an insurance office there so I agree we need to support our local business’. But now our city government in the worse recessions of our lifetimes raises taxes on everybody including business’ as well as not-for-profits. This takes much needed cash out of everybodies pockets reducing the amount that you or I can spend on our own. Add to that the cost of real inflation & things could get even worse.

    Christina your optimism & positive attitude are refreshing but many long time residents don’t share those feelings after watching their money being spent for several decades & the problems seem to not be getting any better. Trust me when I say I support our downtown but listening to citizens constantly say it’s not working means we should try something new or at least something different rather then just throwing more & more money at it.

    • One Vote says:

      The way I see it, the turning point at Dexter Court was the HUD injunction on code enforcement. Look at the eyesore at Kimball and Grove. That pylon sign serves no purpose.
      The Hot Rod Shop and Gregg Roberts are long gone. All that remains are empty lots and shuttered businesses.
      Meanwhile, the mayor touts all the government agencies that call Elgin home.
      What’s wrong with this picture?

      • Can you explain the HUD injunction on code enforcement? I’m genuinely curious.

        • Terry Gavin says:

          I’ll give it a try. The HUD injunction was triggered by a law suit filed by a group of lawyers (from out of town)in the early 2000’s with the DOJ to stop Elgin from enforcing codes on Hispanic’s. At the threat of a protrated legal battle with the Feds the city blinked & backed down.

          Hope that helps, I was knocked off the council before this happened. I’m sure O V can fill in with more details but he’s essentially right about things like the pylon at Grove & Kimball it drives me “nuts” everytime I drive past it, which is frequently.

          • That explanation does help me understand. Thanks. That corner makes me shudder too. So much could be done there if someone had the vision and funding to do it (no, I’m not talking about another city redevelopment plan). Trouble is, it’s hard to look at a corner like that and envision anything grand when it’s in the state that it’s in.

            Maybe I’m missing a piece about the injunction, but it sounds as though you’re saying it was to make Hispanic businesses exempt from code enforcement while everyone was still subject to them. Is that the case, or was it to prevent code enforcement from specifically targeting Hispanic businesses while looking the other way for everyone else?

            I see nothing wrong with welcoming Hispanic owned businesses, but they should have neither stricter nor more lenient sets of rules when it comes to code enforcement, and of course, they should have to operate within the laws of our land, just like we all do.

          • Terry Gavin says:

            Slight correction, I had a senior moment, HUD actually threatned to pull Federal funds not DOJ because they decided we were discriminating against Hispanics overcrowding single family homes but it seems that it caused Code Dept. to back of on business’ too. That’s the best I can tell you about that issue.

  12. Thanks for your response and your thoughts, Terry. As for my business, I run a dance school out of Simple Balance Holistic Center (if my name shows blue at the top of this it clicks through to my website). I’ve lived in Elgin since 2006, but started working through the Centre in ‘03 and opened my dance school at SBHC in 2008.

    I do hear what you’re saying about the frustrations of long time residents and I agree with you that this may not be the time financially for our local government to be sinking money into such large redevelopment projects. I get that the mall culture killed off lots of local businesses, not just here, but just about everywhere. The sprawl of big box stores on Randall is another draw away from our center. Like you and many others, I don’t think the taxpayer funds being spent for image improvements are being spent wisely, the economy being what it is. Does downtown look nicer? Sure does, but as you say, if there’s no return on investment then what’s the point of spending our money?

    Why, though, should we openly disparage the businesses who try to make a go of it downtown as some previous posters here have done? The businesses aren’t the ones spending all of the taxpayer dollars (okay, I’ll give you that some do take advantage of grant money to open their doors, but that’s a discussion for another day). The businesses aren’t repaving everything and building promenades on the river while the city falls deeper into debt. Why dismiss hard working small business people just because of the location they chose? Now, I know it’s not *you* who named names and spoke as though we should be embarrassed to have some of these businesses here and I take you at your word when it comes to your downtown business patronage, so my comments about that aren’t really aimed at you.

    I’d rather see fewer vacant storefronts than pretty bricks and planters on the street. I’d love to see “Eastern Groove Studio” on a big sign above my own downtown doors someday, but I’ve decided to run my business within its means and not throw myself into debt over it. Sounds like a lot of us wish the city would do the same.

  13. Terry Gavin says:

    Thanks for info Christina & also for your words of wisdom regarding downtown. I’ve walked past your studio & must admit missed it, how could I’ve missed it? I won’t miss it again in fact I’d like to stop in sometime & chat with you, my mom was a professional dancer many many years ago.

    You also have a very good point about running down those who are open for business but frustration often gets the better of some & others are just plain bitter. But one thing is for sure we as a city cannot continue to do the same thing over & over & expect a different outcome.

    What the city should do is listen to people like you & O V as well as anybody who has solid suggestions on how to make things work. Very few on this council or who work on staff have ever had any business experience what so ever!

    • Most people miss it because I don’t have my own signage on the door, save an 8.5×11 flyer. My studio is part of Simple Balance, which is right next to Elgin Public house. It would be nice to meet and chat someday. Thanks again for your kind words and understanding of my point of view.

      • Terry Gavin says:

        Yes I missed it but caught your address of your web site & saw that you’re next to my favorite resturant in Elgin. It would be good to meet, hopefully soon. Your viewpoints sound like common sense which Lord knows we could use more of that.