New owners to reopen Prairie Rock with same name
BRIAN HILLemail@example.com The Prairie Rock Brewery as it looked in 2000.
Roadhouse Bar & Grill and the Main Event lasted less than a year in the former Prairie Rock Brewery.
RICK WEST | Staff Photographer
It's been a movie theater, a soul food restaurant, a dance hall, a brewery and a venue for mixed martial arts, but the former Prairie Rock Brewing Co. in downtown Elgin is returning to its glory days.
Well, sort of.
The building, shuttered for a year and a half, will reopen next month. Its latest incarnation: The Prairie Rock Grill.
Matt Lyons, co-owner with his dad Mike Lyons, said he fell in love with the 3,500-square-foot bar and grill side of the building on Grove Avenue near Festival Park and its attached beer garden. Lyons will not reopen the microbrewery but plans to serve craft and microbrew beer on tap as a nod to the original business concept.
"I'm really, really excited about it," Lyons said. "I think it's a great thing."
Lyons is renting from original Prairie Rock owner Mike Origer, who has agreed to let him keep the name if he holds four events per year and donates proceeds to the Boys and Girls Club of Elgin.
The edifice, constructed in 1921 as the Grove Theater to show silent movies, has been home to a variety of business ventures after the theater closed.
But the opening of the Prairie Rock Brewery in 1995 helped mark a rebirth of the downtown, which had just seen the opening of the Grand Victoria Casino down the street the year before.
The brewery operated for 13 years, though its focus changed in 2004 with the opening of the Prairie Rock Chophouse, a grill-your-own steak restaurant.
The Road House and Main Event Elgin opened in fall 2009 but closed less than a year later. Late-night noise from the mixed martial arts competitions and concerts irritated downtown residents.
Tonya Hudson, executive director of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, said it's fitting that the restaurant is keeping the Prairie Rock name, since it was a big part of the downtown revitalization.
"We're kind of in the next phase of it at this time," Hudson said. "It's only fitting that they keep the name."
A soft opening is expected in February with an official grand opening in March. The restaurant will be able to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
Hundreds of people already have applied for the 10 to 15 positions Lyons plans to fill with an "over-the-top nice staff" in a family-friendly restaurant.
"You can get a burger and a beer anywhere," Lyons said. "I want it to be a really good burger and a unique beer served by a really good person."
The next month will be spent cleaning up and airing out the building that has sat empty since early 2009. Lyons said final selections for the menu, beer list and staff are still pending.
Visit prairierockgrill.com for updates as the business gets closer to opening.
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