The lease-holder for Scotty’s Burger Joint in The Commons will bring a plan for a new restaurant to a special Jan. 2 meeting of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission.
A Pots & Pans Production, the owner of the Scotty’s chain of restaurants, announced Wednesday night that its relationship with Mert Shipman was being terminated. A specific closing date for the Columbus restaurant was not immediately announced. Shipman holds the lease to the space in The Commons and had contracted with Pots & Pans to manage the space and run it as a Scotty’s Burger Joint. A change in the type of restaurant in the city-owned building must be approved by the Redevelopment Commission, however.
Shipman has informed city officials that he plans to replace Scotty’s, which opened in November 2011, with a Detour American Grille. His request will be considered by the commission at the noon meeting Jan. 2.
Detour is a chain operated by former Scotty’s employees and appears to have a similar menu and style, Mayor Kristen Brown said. Detour has two locations in the Indianapolis market. If approved by the commission, the Columbus restaurant would be closed for about two weeks, long enough to put up new signs and new menus, she said.
Brown said the commission’s main concern will be to determine “if it still is an appropriate fit for what The Commons is, which is a public park with a playground in it.
“I think as long as we are not deviating too far from the current usage, I don’t see that there is going to be a problem,” she said. “I think we will want to understand the concept, the menu, the decor, how the employees dress — those kinds of things.”
Brown said it is not up to the commission to decide what concept of restaurant best fits the space.
“Ultimately that is the decision for the market,” she said.
Brown said Shipman has yet to present any documentation or plans for the change he will be requesting.
Shipman has had several long-running conflicts with the city over the Scotty’s restaurant in The Commons. Last month, the city worked out a deal in which Shipman paid $28,762.44 in back utility bills and the city paid $21,021 to Shipman for extra costs involved in the preparation of The Commons space.
Scotty’s Burger Joint also was the last holdout in city efforts to move all leases held by the nonprofit Columbus Downtown Inc. to the Redevelopment Commission, so the city can wind down the corporation. Shipman reassigned the lease, just before the Redevelopment Commission met.
City Council member Frank Jerome, who also serves on the Redevelopment Commission, said he is eager to put the Scotty’s/Detour decision behind him.
“We have wasted a lot of legal time, expense and a lot of board time on trying to get his restaurant to go along with what every other restaurant has gone along with to get rid of CDI,” Jerome said. “We finally got the bills paid off and the utilities caught up. He hasn’t been our best tenant. That is my concern, will the nonsense stop? Will this be a normal thing where he does his business, pays his bills on time?”
Jerome said it would be his preference to turn the sit-down-restaurant space in The Commons into a place for the public to congregate.
“I never was in for rentals in the beginning,” Jerome said. “The Commons changed its ambiance. ... You’ve got it compartmentalized. There is not the kind of a public space for you to just go in and hang out like you used to.”
The five-year lease for the 5,511-square-foot space is for $82,665 a year with an option to renew the lease four times. The Scotty’s company does not hold any ownership interest or equity in the Columbus location. A second Scotty’s location on the northeast side of Indianapolis also controlled by Shipman had its management agreement terminated Wednesday as well.
The Redevelopment Commission meeting originally was scheduled to be a short meeting on the first business day of the year for the election of new officers, as required under state law, but will hear Shipman’s plans during the meeting.
Shipman did not return phone messages Friday seeking his comment on plans for the restaurant.