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Column: Coverage over struggling restaurant warranted

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Former Scotty's Burger Joint employees fill the meeting room during Thursday's Columbus Redevelopment Commission session, Jan. 10, 2013, at City Hall.
Former Scotty's Burger Joint employees fill the meeting room during Thursday's Columbus Redevelopment Commission session, Jan. 10, 2013, at City Hall.

As I was editing the “Around Town” column on Wednesday afternoon for Thursday’s newspaper, I got a chuckle from one of the “Orchids and Onions” submissions.

In case you’re not a regular reader of Page A2, “Orchids” are offered for good things. But when you are on the receiving end of an “Onion,” you know that at least one of our readers is not happy.

This anonymous reader gave an “Onion” to “the newspaper that feels we need an article about a certain restaurant in Columbus at least four times a week on the front page.”

I can’t say for sure which newspaper or which restaurant that person was referring to — there were no names listed, you see — but I have a pretty good guess.


Make no doubt that the controversy that has erupted between City Hall and the company known as Greenhouse Restaurant LLC is serious stuff. Jobs are potentially at stake. And a restaurant operator is in jeopardy of losing its right to do business at 310 Washington St., smack dab in the midst of the popular Columbus arts and entertainment district.

But what’s interesting about that “Onion” is when the comment was submitted, there had only been two front-page stories — not four — about the Scotty’s Burger Joint/Detour American Grille-City Hall flap last week. Sure, people sometimes exaggerate to make a point. But by Friday, we had lived up to the reader’s complaint: Four front-page stories. And with Saturday’s edition, five straight days of front-page coverage of the issue put it over the top.

Maybe in more ways than one, considering the gamesmanship that’s been demonstrated during this emotional issue.

I think some of the fascination for this story reverberates to the catch-phrase “You can’t fight City Hall,” which originated — at least according to one source — during the time of William M. “Boss” Tweed and New York City’s Tammany Hall, considered a corrupt political organization that gained significant clout in the mid-19th century.

In other words, it is useless to clash with a powerful politician — or the establishment in broader terms — in a fight that you can’t win. Or so they say.

But the restaurant company, owned by partners Mert Shipman and Mark Maddox, is certainly showing some spunk after operating for just over a year downtown as a Scotty’s franchise before parting ways with Scott Wise. With that business “divorce,” Shipman and Maddox say they will reopen in The Commons location Monday as a Detour American Grille, a small Indianapolis-based franchise. That’s despite the city’s contention that the company has breached its lease, which officials contend only allows a Scotty’s restaurant there.

Mayor Kristen Brown, as the point person on this debate for the city, is standing her ground. And she has plenty of supporters on her side, too.

Two factions, both resolute in their positions.

Next up: The attorneys start earning their pay.

In our newsroom last week, “Restaurant Wars” was easily the most-talked-about story of the week among people who cover local politics and government.

I have to think our readers were fascinated at each new development as well.

Except for at least one, anyway.

Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at

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