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March 7, 2001
Peter's Bay Restaurant in The Commons Mall closed Monday because it was no longer profitable.
"We've been struggling for a couple of years," said Gary Garber, who owns the seafood restaurant with his wife, Debbie.
"Despite the fact that Columbus has continually made great strides to revitalize the downtown area, it has been a continual struggle to maintain the volume necessary to remain successful," the Garbers said in a written statement.
The restaurant opened in 1990, and the Garbers bought it in December 1992.
Business was good in December 2000, but drastically dropped in January and February.
"The recent down-sizing in local companies and the downturn in the economy contributed to our difficult decision," the Garbers said.
Business was always fairly steady until about two years ago, Garber said.
The recent economic woes were "kind of the final straw."
April 29, 2001
Sharon and Herman Renfro have big plans for The Commons Mall and surrounding properties.
The Renfros bought the mall from Irwin Management in November.
"We're looking at all kinds of alternatives," Herman Renfro told The Republic Thursday, while sitting in an office on the northern side of the roughly 151,000-square-foot structure.
"We want a new concept," he said.
"It's gonna be very different."
Over the next few years, the Renfros would like to turn the mall and adjacent parking lots into an "urban retail district" and to become part of the downtown shopping area that includes Washington Street.
The plan's biggest obstacles are finding a second anchor store and lack of parking spaces and store fronts, Renfro said.
A second department store, besides Sears, would give the owners a better idea about restructuring plans.
"We're pursuing it big-time," Renfro said.
Smaller stores need to fit into the plan that is determined through larger stores, he said.
"(But) it could take a year or two to get a department store."
June 6, 2001
Rising costs of future maintenance on The Commons concerned Columbus City Council members scrutinizing the city's capital improvement budgets.
Tuesday, a Columbus City Council went through all the budgets except those for the fire and medic departments and computer equipment.
The Columbus Parks and Recreation Department asked for $832,412 in improvements and new equipment for the city parks.
One area that surprised City Council members was nearly $1.6 million in renovations to The Commons through 2006.
For 2002, the department asked for $145,000, including:
But the expenses rise to $845,000 in 2003, in a worst-case scenario that assumes the city will need to do major work to the walls and windows.
October 17, 2001
The owners of The Commons Mall plan to begin charging for parking in some or all of their lots in the next few months to free spaces for shoppers.
Herman and Sharon Renfro presented their plans to City Council members in an informal meeting Tuesday before the regularly scheduled council meeting.
The first three hours of parking would be free and they would charge $2 an hour after that to discourage downtown workers from parking in the lots. The first lot with paid parking would be the Third Street lot, they said. If necessary the plan would spread to other surrounding lots.
The couple bought the property in November. They said out of 750 parking spaces in their lots, 500 to 600 on any given weekday are being used by downtown workers instead of shoppers. A new, larger restaurant in the mall will require more dedicated parking.
"You can't do that because that is where all the employees park," said Sharon Renfro. "I'm sorry, but we spent a lot of money on that property, not for the downtown employees to park."
She said the company recently spent about $7,000 on lighting in the parking lots, replacing burned-out bulbs. That was a large expense considering few mall customers are able to use the lots.
December 17, 2001
Here's looking at you, Columbus.
Rick's Café Americain, a family restaurant that specializes in seafood and features live jazz, will open by the end of this week in The Commons Mall.
"We kinda create magic," said owner Rick Albrecht, taking a break last week from overseeing final construction and renovations in the space formerly occupied by Peter's Bay Restaurant.
Albrecht also owns Rick's Boatyard Café in Indianapolis and for 12 years owned Rick's Café Americain in Union Station.
Menu items range from soups, salads, sandwiches and steaks to more exotic meals, such as duck breast, South African Lobster Tails and Bayou Fettucine.
About nine contemporary area jazz bands will rotate to play Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings in the bar area, which seats 72.
Rick's also will serve Sunday brunch as early as 10 a.m.
Starting in April, weather permitting, the restaurant will open an outside bar, which seats 60, on the north side of the mall. Rick's total seating capacity is 250.
The café employs 80 full time, many of whom were hired locally. Albrecht brought in management from Indianapolis and a chef from Chicago.
The décor of the 6,500-square-foot café will consist mostly of plants and palm trees, with some pictures on white walls.
The dominating piece of art, however, will be one that has been with Albrecht since he owned the restaurant in Union Station: A painting of Rick, Ilsa and Sam from the movie "Casablanca."
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