Bobby Razes saw more than a tired former restaurant on Old Rand Road near Lake Zurich's waterfront when it was put up for sale.
He saw opportunity.
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Razes is renovating the former Eng's Tea House and renaming it Bobbers Bar and Grill -- and he's counting on the lake to help him be successful. Bobbers is set to open in August with a focused food menu, signature drinks and a building designed for guests to enjoy lake views from wherever they sit.
Commercial opportunities are limited around the privately owned lake that is mostly surrounded by homes and a village park. Lake Zurich village government owns what are considered to be 2 prime acres near the water downtown that officials hope are purchased for retail and residential development.
Razes said he moved quickly when he became aware Eng's was for sale after it closed early this year. He said the nearby lake is the foundation of his business.
"View is critical," said Razes, 26. "People play on view. It plays in their minds."
Razes will have the second eatery and watering hole on Old Rand across from the lake, joining Scoreboard Bar and Grill. He said he also owns a slice of land on the water that could become an extension of Bobbers.
Despite its location, Eng's didn't offer visitors a lake view. Restaurant construction consultant Dave McDonough said much thought is going into how Bobbers will use the building to take advantage of the water.
He said Bobbers will have a contemporary style and features, such as a front window that opens to create a patio effect. Couches and fire pits are planned outside the building's east side.
"Anywhere you sit in here, you'll be able to see the lake," said McDonough, a Lake Zurich resident.
McDonough has experience in rehabilitating buildings for restaurants and other entertainment uses. His suburban projects include the gutting and renovation of Christi's German Inn to create Bauer's Brauhaus in downtown Palatine in 2011.
Before Lake Zurich trustees approved the renovation plan for Bobbers in June, village documents show Eng's had dilapidated wood siding and other problems. Lake Zurich's building and zoning manager, Daniel Peterson, was upbeat about the new venture.
"This is a project that will revitalize a long-standing restaurant property on North Old Rand Road," he said.
Lake Zurich Trustee Jim Beaudoin said the mostly residential North Old Rand Road neighborhood will benefit from Bobbers moving into the revamped structure.
"It's something that's going to be more aesthetically pleasing," Beaudoin said.
Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dale Perrin said Bobbers will eliminate "what literally was an eyesore" near the water. He added that young entrepreneurs such as Razes may be what's needed to boost the village with smaller projects.
"Everything about it is a positive," Perrin said.
Razes, a Lake Zurich resident, is not new to the village's business community. He previously helped operate the My Flavor It! Place ice cream shop on Main Street in the village's downtown owned by his family.
McDonough said Bobbers will not have a freezer.
"We're going to be sourcing our produce locally," he said. "Our poultry is local. So we're supporting area farmers, too. And we're going to get a fresher product, which is only going to taste better in the end."
Razes said the time is right for him to open what he hopes will become a Lake Zurich landmark.
"I think it's a combination of the economy and Lake Zurich both being on the upswing together," he said.