If the signs ring true, Highway 84 soon will welcome two new restaurants in buildings once occupied by Western Sizzlin and the Colleseum.
The lights were out Monday morning at Hinesville’s Western Sizzlin, a frequent lunchtime meeting spot for local civic organizations, and the parking lot was empty.
The restaurant’s owners, Bonnita “Josie” and Rick Morrison, closed their doors Sunday to prepare the building for its transformation to Bassano’s Italian Eatery, Bonnita Morrison said.
“We just decided that we wanted to do something different, change with the times,” she said. “I’ve always loved Italian, and Hinesville doesn’t have anything like that.”
By night, Bassano’s will be a full-service restaurant with beer and liquor, though Morrison added that the alcohol license may not be issued immediately.
During lunch, diners can choose from the Italian menu or a buffet with both American favorites and pizza.
“What we’re trying to do is take care of our older customers who we’ve had who have always been faithful to us, but also do something new and exciting,” Morrison said. The new menu will feature pasta, calzones and wings, but a traditional American buffet still will be offered Sundays.
Morrison hopes to open the new venture by the end of the month and plans to retain the same staff, she said.
Next door, a pink sign for Tekilla Rose has replaced the former Colleseum Sports Palace and Grill sign.
The Colleseum, a business owned by mayoral candidate Tyrone Adams and Jodee Carlen, closed in January after the city effectively denied it a beer and liquor license, Adams said.
He said he believes the city’s hand in regulating business is inhibiting growth. To maintain the license, he would have had to construct a fence between the Colleseum and the nearby hotel.
“That fence would have cost me $20,000 in materials alone,” he said. “How is that supposed to help a small, struggling business?
“When they denied my license, they put 50 people out of work,” Adams said, adding that he was paying between $4,000 and $4,500 per week in payroll.
According to previous Courier reports, the city had a hearing about the business in response to reports of suspected shootings, fights, excessive noise and parking issues.
In a July city council meeting, the council approved an alcohol beverage license request made by Ernest Graham, owner of Tekilla Rose, which will be in the same location as the Colleseum. That building is owned by Anita Rosen. Neither Graham nor Rosen returned the Courier’s calls for comment.
But beyond the sign, the building’s exterior shows no signs of change. Computer-paper printouts that read “Re-entry fee $2” still are affixed to the venue’s doors.
Nearby, the former China Buffet sits unoccupied. In May, the business owners relocated to the Beall’s Outlet plaza and changed the restaurant’s name to the Golden Hibachi Buffet. The commercial property, as well as the building that housed Shoney’s in Flemington until it closed in April 2010, are listed as available.
Jimmy Shanken, the real estate agent who listed the properties, said he is optimistic about the buildings.
“We’re receiving an unprecedented amount of inquiries here in the last month for different venues,” Shanken said.
“Investors are more optimistic on a national level, which trickles down into a local level.”
The former Shoney’s currently would be under contract if revisions in the city of Flemington’s alcohol ordinance had not complicated matters, he added. Now the revisions are complete, and future tenants should be able to receive licenses to sell alcohol with food.
“My client couldn’t hold out long enough for the alcohol review,” he said. “Now that it can have an alcohol license, it makes that building even more marketable.”
For both buildings, a visible location with proximity to Hinesville and Fort Stewart gates enhances their appeal, Shanken said. Shoney’s was built in 1997, so its structure also is a selling point.
Flemington city clerk Terri Willett said the city’s alcohol ordinance revision process lasted about six months before taking effect Oct. 11.
The amendment created six distinct alcoholic beverage classifications to create distances between licensed premises and educational, church and residential grounds.
Willett anticipates the new ordinance will have a positive impact on restaurants within the city with full-service kitchens, she said.