‘This space has been dark long enough’: Mount Prospect has high hopes for new downtown bar and grill

A pair of ambitious and experienced restaurant operators are ready to breathe new life into a vacant space with a checkered past in downtown Mount Prospect.

Partners Sam Vardalos and Nick Apostolopoulos plan to open the Mount Prospect Public House next month at 18 W. Busse Ave., the former longtime home of Ye Olde Town Inn.

It is one of the oldest buildings in the village, a Tudor-style structure dating back to the 1920s.

Apostolopoulos, who owns the Stray Hen Cafe in Elmhurst and Ann Arbor, Michigan, has 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and will run the day-to-day operation. Vardalos, who has been in the banking business for 30 years, also has a restaurant background.

“I’m Greek. It’s in our DNA to be in the restaurant business,” Vardalos said.

For more than four decades, Ye Olde Town Inn was a mainstay in the downtown area known as the “Triangle,” filling its customers’ appetite for beer, pizza and local music.

But in the early 2000s, a feud erupted between the restaurant’s owner, Tod Curtis, and village officials who saw the downtown property as ripe for redevelopment. Curtis had development plans of his own, planning to convert the building into a mix of residential and retail space to be called the Gateway Centre.

The village shut down the inn for a time because of code violations and even initiated condemnation proceedings. Curtis responded with a civil racketeering lawsuit that ended in 2014 with him receiving a $6.5 million settlement from the village.

Curtis closed the restaurant a few months later and, except for a brief period when it was home to an arcade-themed restaurant, the space has been empty since 2017.

Now, the Mount Prospect Public House is set to take its place among the growing roster of eating and drinking establishments popping up on both sides of the railroad tracks that bisect Mount Prospect’s downtown.

“We chose the name Mount Prospect Public House to welcome the public into our establishment here,” said Vardalos, who’s worked alongside Apostolopoulos for 15 years. “We came up with a collective plan to come in and be involved with the community itself. Given our proven background and experience, I thought we would be a good fit.”

  Sam Vardalos, along with partner Nick Apostolopoulos, is ready to open the Mount Prospect Public House in the former Ye Olde Town Inn space at 18 W. Busse Ave. in Mount Prospect. Brian Hill/

He and his partner received a warm reception from Mount Prospect Mayor Paul Hoefert when the village board approved the restaurant’s liquor license. Hoefert was a village trustee during the height of the legal battles with Curtis.

“This space has been dark long enough. You are both experienced, and I know you will be successful,” he told them.

  The Mount Prospect Public House will occupy one of the spaces in one of the village’s oldest buildings, dating back to the 1920s. Brian Hill/

A key factor, Vardalos said, was that the restaurant owners agreed to Curtis’ request that they “keep the integrity” of the historic building.

“I think we've done a good job in doing that,” he added. “The landlord has done a great job in keeping the place intact. The integrity is here. The bones are here. So we definitely want to build on that.”

The space will include 20 bar stools and 15 tables, Vardalos said.

There will be two bars with high-top seating. Live music will be offered in two different “zones” and customers can play tabletop shuffleboard and darts. A popcorn machine also will be available.

Apostolopoulos said the restaurant will be a neighborhood bar and grill that will draw on menu items from his existing establishments. They also plan to offer pizza and a weekend breakfast buffet with Bloody Marys and bottomless mimosas, Vardalos added.

Hoefert said the new business helps make the village’s downtown a destination for people that want good food.

“We always wanted a variety of restaurants in the downtown, and we’re finally getting it,” he said.

  Sam Vardalos opens the door to the Mount Prospect Public House, formerly Ye Olde Town Inn, at 18 W. Busse Ave. in Mount Prospect. Brian Hill/
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.