Flatlander's to close after 16 years in Lincolnshire

Updated 1/20/2012 4:57 AM
  • Flatlander's in Lincolnshire is closing after 16 years in business.

      Flatlander's in Lincolnshire is closing after 16 years in business. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2005

Flatlander's, a large lodge-style restaurant known for its big stone fireplace and in-house brewery will serve its last meal in Lincolnshire on Sunday.

But as the economy has affected the restaurant business, it has opened another door for the venture. It will adjust and expand with new restaurants in Vernon Hills and Chicago, and a production-only brewery in Mundelein, owners say.

"Just the economics -- we've decided to go in a different direction," said Russ Sher, executive chef and owner. "It takes a lot of money to keep a brewery in the restaurant."

Sixteen years ago, Flatlander's became the first commercial tenant for the developing Village Green area east of Milwaukee Avenue, which has never fully jelled as envisioned.

With its local brews, 24-foot ceilings, and all brick interior, Flatlanders has been a well-known destination. Many local officials have been stopping to chat, Sher said.

"It's a tough location, a tough economy, it's been tough all the way around. It's sad to see them go," Mayor Brett Blomberg said, adding it was the first project he worked on as a village trustee.

Sher said the closing will be bittersweet but it's time to start fresh.

"The bad economy hit us awhile ago, but we can be more profitable in a smaller space. The life of an independent (restaurant) operator is more short-lived now than it was years ago because there is more corporate competition," he said.

At 14,500 square feet, Flatlander's was considered large for a restaurant. The new venture, Entourage, will occupy about 8,800 square feet near Opa! restaurant on Hawthorn Parkway near Lakeview Parkway in Vernon Hills. It is expected to open by mid-February.

"The goal is to keep things going. We don't want a big break in time," he said. A second Entourage restaurant is planned to open in late March or early April at O'Hare Plaza near Cumberland Avenue in Chicago, he added.

"Right now, it's a renters' market with the properties that are out there and it's turn key," he said of the speed at which they can open.

These ventures will be a "little more upscale" and feature a "craft beer inspired cuisine" in which the beverage is used in broth, as a marinade and in recipes, according to Sher. They will carry only Flatlander's brews on tap.

The other aspect of the business will operate as Old Chicago Brewing Company, which will brew varying sized batches of beer on contract for a variety customers.

"There definitely is interest," he said of a surge in craft beer demand.

There will be no tap room and thus no competition for Tighthead Brewing Co., a neighbor in the same building near the Mundelein Metra station, Sher said.

Steve McNellis, director of community development in Lincolnshire, said Village Green could be doing better but is holding its own.

Eddie merlot's steakhouse will move into one vacant space in the center but the Flatlander's building is another matter.

"That's an awful lot of square footage for a restaurant and bar to make work," McNellis said.

"It was very associated with Lincolnshire. It was the beginning of the Village Green in some ways. Change is something that just happens."

Sher said a tie will remain through various events.

"We still plan on being very active in Lincolnshire," he said. "We're not abandoning our hometown."

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