The new Detour American Grille & Bar opened for business Monday morning with no significant roadblocks, just a little last-minute scrambling.
Chad Smith, owner of Signarama in Indianapolis, used a scraper to remove the Scotty’s Burger Joint logo and signage from the doors just before they were opened to the public under the Detour brand. He then went in to adjust the large Detour American Grille & Bar logo on the wall just inside The Commons lobby entrance.
The smell of fresh paint lingered Monday morning in parts of the restaurant, and an occasional piece of masking tape was pulled off as servers made their rounds and laborers put the final touches on the building’s interior.
The restaurant opened at 11 a.m. in the face of an ongoing dispute between the city and the leaseholder of the space in The Commons, Greenhouse Restaurant LLC. The city contends that the company broke its lease by closing the Scotty’s Burger Joint on Dec. 30, while the company contends that a simple amendment could fix the lease issue.
First through the door was Bob DeWeese and his wife, Debbie, who took a table near The Commons lobby side of the restaurant. They said they specifically came out to support the restaurant’s blue-collar workers. He planned to order a burger, and she was looking forward to the tomato soup.
“Scotty’s was a great restaurant,” Bob DeWeese said. “We’ve got the same facility and most of the same people still working here. I expect it will be just as good.
“This was a big center of activity during the warm weather. You drive by, and people were sitting out. I think it was a great thing to have here. I am glad it is still here in some form.”
Debbie DeWeese said they made the decision to eat at the new restaurant as soon as they saw the information in the newspaper.
“I thought, ‘We are going to be there right at 11 a.m. when they open,’” she said. “We wanted to support them.”
Judy Johns Jackson, the city’s community development director under former Mayor Fred Armstrong, and her husband, Norman, also were among the morning’s first customers. She said they were planning to eat lunch out anyway but wanted to come to Detour to support the business and its employees.
Jackson said that she planned to bring in a party of about 15 people Monday night to support the restaurant, including Armstrong, former Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Sullivan and Jim Norris, the public safety director under Armstrong.
Marlena Thorpe has a cousin who works at the restaurant, so she made a special trip downtown to eat lunch and to show her support.
Randy Cramer, manager of the former Scotty’s and the new Detour, said he was elated that his employees have the opportunity to come back to work.
“That is what this has been all about,” Cramer said. “That is the reason I am still here, for them.”
Cramer said the transition has been smooth, mostly because the staff has been kept intact. Before the restaurant could reopen, there were some minor changes needed to the interior, additional training of the wait staff and the cooks, and reprogramming of the computer system.
Matthew Whisler, president of Detour Franchising LLC, said the company plans to use the Columbus restaurant as a training ground for the staff at future Detour franchise restaurants. Columbus is the fourth Detour restaurant. The company owns one quick-serve version of the restaurant in Indianapolis, licenses a second in Carmel, and operates another in the Geist area for Greenhouse Restaurant, which also opened Monday.
Although the chain had another restaurant opening Monday, Whisler said he thought it was important for him to be in Columbus.
“The biggest thing that I wanted to be down here for is to let the staff see that we are supporting them,” Whisler said. “There is a lot of uncertainty with them. There are a lot of fears, that the police would be here today, not letting them come into work. ... I wanted to be here to let them see that I am serious.”