March 27, 2012

Hoping to Meet Demand, Jack’s Grill Opens Sports Bar

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Students still in mourning over the closing of Dino’s, Johnny O’s and the Royal Palm have perhaps been granted a respite, as the recent expansion of Jack’s Grill to include a sports bar promises to fill a Collegetown niche.

According to Kevin Sullivan, who co-owns Jack’s with George Figueroa, the pair had planned to expand the 120 Dryden Rd. eatery even before several Collegetown bars closed.

Still, Sullivan, who is also part owner of Loco and The Connection, said those closings “[don’t] hurt.”

The previous occupant of the property adjoining Jack’s was K C Copy, whose owner retired. Sullivan and Figueroa took over the space on March 1, and have since renovated the property, installing high-definition televisions and a service window through which customers will be able to order food from the neighboring Jack’s Grill kitchen.

“We’re keeping the quick-service atmosphere for takeout and stuff like that over there, and this will be more of a casual place where you still go up and order at the window, and then when your food’s ready, we call out your name,” Sullivan said.

When the renovation process is complete, the space will boast up to a dozen TVs featuring “pretty much anything anybody wants,” according to Sullivan.

“We’ll subscribe to all the good packages and all that stuff … I know we have some soccer fans; we’ll keep them happy,” he said. “We’re looking at doing a big projector, too.”

The expanded Jack’s will host a soft opening without alcohol being served Wednesday afternoon, with a grand opening planned for when the bar receives its liquor license. Sullivan hopes that this will happen before the end of the spring semester.

“I can hope all I want; it’s not up to me,” he said. “We hire a professional kind of intermediary between us and the liquor authority to deal with them. Hopefully [it will happen] sooner than later, but it’s all up to them.”

The bar will offer 16 beers on tap, along with wine, he said.

“We’re not doing any liquor … We’re not going to be a crazy club or anything,” Sullivan said, adding that the new addition will operate more as a restaurant than a bar. Patrons who are under 21 will still be able to order food and watch sports with their friends, he said.

The original Jack’s will maintain its regular hours, while the new addition will be open from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m. every day except Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when it will open at 11 a.m.

“We’re going to push brunch,” Sullivan said. “We [already] do a big brunch business … and I think it will overflow into this and really get bigger and better.”

He added that mimosas will be available, as will all the makings of “the classic American breakfast.”

Sullivan declined to comment on how much he and Figueroa paid to buy out the lease of K C Copy, but said he thinks “it will be worth it, especially with all the bars closing and not having a [sports bar] scene [as it is].”

“You could go to Rulloff’s, but Rulloff’s gets really crazy. And Stella’s is really kind of classy — kind of upscale and expensive,” he added.

Matt Koren ’12 echoed Sullivan’s sentiment, saying, “I think it’s a vastly different idea … It’s an entirely different option from what Cornell students have now.”

Koren said that while he does not know if the expanded Jack’s will cater to an entirely different clientele, he does not think there will be an overlap between those who go to Jack’s and those who go elsewhere in Collegetown on a given night.

“People go to a sports bar to hang out with their friends and watch sports,” Koren said. “People go to Rulloff’s to [drink heavily].”

Dan Outcalt ’12 envisions the Jack’s addition as a place where people interested in watching a night game in a low-key atmosphere can go before venturing to other bars.

“I think there’s a huge market at Cornell among students and people in Collegetown for a sports bar,” he said. “We had something like that at Benchwarmers … That was close by and shut down.”

Outcalt said he and his friends have to drive to Buffalo Wild Wings, which opened a couple years ago, to have a comparable experience.

“I’m frankly surprised that this opportunity hasn’t been explored by other owners or landlords yet,” he said.

Outcalt believes that the fact that Jack’s will serve alcohol will help attract people to the venue and promote camaraderie in the bar.

“You can go get food and watch the game at a lot of places, and I think Jack’s — already having a good bar-food type of atmosphere — is a great place [that], with an addition … would draw a lot of people to go get some Jack’s food, grab a couple beers and watch the Jets play … or for me, watch my favorite Ohio teams play,” he said.

Outcalt said he does not expect the lack of hard alcohol to be detrimental to the business.

“Whether or not hard liquor is there is [irrelevant]; in this type of a place, I don’t really think that’s a factor. People aren’t drinking scotch on the rocks while they’re trying to watch basketball, people are drinking a beer,” he said.

Outcalt said that while he probably goes to Jack’s once every couple weeks for Sunday brunch, with the expansion, he could see himself going “a lot, just because there’s no really other more economically-priced food place in Collegetown that also offers a sit-down area that would have a bar and beer available.”

As a freshman living on North Campus, Collin Schultz ’15 said that “it’s kind of a trek to Collegetown.” Still, Schultz said, he could imagine a lot of people going to Jack’s “during the end of May, when it’s really nice out.”

According to Sullivan, the eatery’s peak season is April and May, which motivated his efforts to finish the renovations quickly to provide extra dining space.

Anisha Chopra ’13 said that right now, Jack’s “seems like more of a fast-food place [that’s] a little over-priced to get it and go.”

However, depending on the outcome of the renovation process, she may be more inclined to frequent the restaurant.

“I could see myself saying, ‘See you at Jack’s Saturday,’” Chopra said.

Original Author: Alex Kuczynski-Brown