Blue 60 is latest restaurant to try unlucky Mundelein location
If a restaurant's popularity could be decided purely on location, Mundelein's Blue 60 would be a guaranteed hit.
Set on the north side of Route 60 just west of Route 45, the azure-themed eatery and bar is near one of Lake County's busiest intersections and the heart of the village's south-side commercial corridor.
For the restaurants that operated on the site before Blue 60 opened in August, however, success was hard to come by. Four opened and closed there between 1997 and 2008.
Between 2008 and 2010, proposals for four more restaurants came before the village board, but none came to be.
Village officials hope Blue 60 breaks the trend.
"It's a great location because it's right on Route 60, so there's a high traffic count," Village Administrator John Lobaito said. "I think a good operator will be very successful there."
Blue 60's building, at 330 E. Town Line Road, had stood vacant since April 2008.
The previous tenant was the Fuel Bar & Grill, which opened in 2007 but shut down a year later after an undercover police operation led to arrests there.
Gambling charges against an owner and manager were dropped, but several people pleaded guilty to drug charges.
Before Fuel, the building was home to Henry's Grille for a few years. The Red Door Tavern and Slammers Sports Grill preceded Henry's.
The last restaurant to make a long stand on the site was a Ponderosa steak house, which had a 16-year-run before closing in 1994.
Some entrepreneurs aren't prepared for the costs involved with running a restaurant, especially if they first invest a ton of money in remodeling, Trustee Ed Sullivan said.
"It's just too expensive to put a restaurant together, especially in the economy we've been in the last three years," Sullivan said.
Of the four restaurants proposed for the site after Fuel closed, one garnered some attention.
Local restaurateur Chris Khayat wanted to open a new Half Day Inn there in 2010. It would have been a successor to the landmark Vernon Hills restaurant of that name, which was demolished in 2007, but the plans were withdrawn before completion.
Blue 60's operator is Milwaukee-area resident Steve Itsines, who has owned the building since 2005 but was not affiliated with the prior restaurants.
Itsines, who once owned a restaurant in Wisconsin, said he decided to open a new restaurant in Mundelein because he'd been paying the mortgage for three years without a tenant.
"I kind of went all in," said Itsines, who also owns a hotel in Grafton, Wis.
Lobaito attended Blue 60s grand opening and praised the menu, which relies on sports-bar favorites like hamburgers and Buffalo-style chicken wings.
Sullivan said he's heard other area bar owners complain that their business is down because of Blue 60s appearance on the scene.
"They seem to be getting more and more busy, so I'm encouraged," Sullivan said.
Itsines said Blue 60 is "doing fine" for a new business.
"I'm just trying my hardest to do it the right way," he said.