Downtown dining changes: Summer brings expansion for one restaurant, sale of another

More changes are happening for downtown Columbus dining.

Special Dogs & More shared on social media that the restaurant has been put up for sale.

Additionally, Savory Swine has announced a new event venue known as “Swine & Dine” that will be located next door to the butcher shop and restaurant.

“We are still open and operating!” Special Dogs said, after announcing the business was for sale. “But, due to health issues that have come up over the past two years we have to look at our health first. We are sad but not disappointed as we have seen so much success some out of Special Dogs & More. We are very proud of what has happened since we opened our doors in 2017 and are hoping someone wants to continue the mission we started.”

Special Dogs hires and trains individuals with “different abilities” so that they can become gainfully employed.

When asked if the COVID-19 pandemic had also played a role in the decision to sell, co-owner Randy Lapidus replied, “The pandemic is what created this. We’ve developed some health issues. From what the doctors told us, it’s all been stress-related. And the stress over the last two and a half years has definitely contributed to it.”

Lapidus and his wife, Robin, opened Special Dogs in 2017. The idea for the business came a few years after their daughter, Rachel, went into cardiac arrest and later underwent treatment at a rehabilitation center in Indianapolis.

Rachel went into cardiac arrest on July 27, 2011. Her heart stopped beating for more than eight minutes. She had to relearn how to read, write, count and even comprehend the concept of time. This inspired her family to consider what they could do to help individuals with intellectual challenges.

Special Dogs was originally located at FairOaks Mall. The restaurant later moved into the former Eagles Club at 217 Washington St. in 2018 due to declining foot traffic at the mall.

Lapidus said Special Dogs has been a success.

“We’ve employed a lot of those with mental, intellectual and developmental disabilities,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of success come through the restaurant. Employees we were told would never be able to work are now working, whether it be for us or somebody else. So we’re not disappointed, we’re just very saddened. We didn’t want to have to do this.”

Further north along Washington Street, Joe Willy’s Burger Bar is still up for sale. The restaurant closed for the season in late 2021, and a for sale sign was posted on the property some time later.

“I’ve had several interested parties, but nothing has come about,” said owner John Wilhelmi.

The business was opened in August of 2012 by owners Wilhelmi and Joe Carman. The two men spent over a year turning a more than 100-year-old house at 1034 Washington St. — which has served a number of purposes over the years — into their restaurant.

However, even as Special Dogs and Joe Willy’s await new ownership, another downtown eatery is expanding its operations. Lindy Rix, Lisa Abendroth and Catie Rix with Savory Swine recently announced that they are opening a new business called Swine & Dine.

The three women are co-owners of the endeavor, which will be located next to Savory Swine at 412 Washington St. Renovations are underway on the space, which previously housed Caribbean restaurant and bar Le Petit Caraibes.

“Swine & Dine will be a full-service event space that will regularly curate and host a wide range of events and educational workshops,” the group stated on social media. “The concept for Swine & Dine was born out of the need for more space to successfully execute our team’s lofty goals of consistently providing high-quality and unique dining experiences in a memorable, personalized atmosphere.”

The co-owners also said that expanding into a commercial kitchen will allow them to offer more culinary offerings, dinner kit solutions and take-and-bake meal options.

The team is seeking donations to help support the development of Swine & Dine. These contributions will help cover items such as a three-way liquor license, equipment, renovations, furnishings, and a mural artist.