New restaurant planned for unlucky site in Mundelein
The owner of a popular Vernon Hills eatery is turning his attention to a Mundelein site that's seen a half-dozen bars or restaurants come and go since the 1990s.
Phil Gilardi is launching Tavern on 60 at 330 E. Town Line Road, not far from the northwest corner of routes 45 and 60.
Despite being so close to one of Lake County's most traveled intersections, restaurants at the address haven't lasted very long.
The most recent attempt was a sports bar called Blue 60, which lost its liquor license and closed in late 2012 after repeated criminal complaints. It had been open about a year.
Five other restaurants or bars opened and quickly closed on the site between 1997 and 2009.
Gilardi, the man behind Philly G's Italian restaurant in neighboring Vernon Hills, hopes to break the pattern. Aiming for a mid-November opening, he promises Tavern on 60 will make the community proud.
"I think it's a diamond in the rough and can be great for the town," said Gilardi, a longtime Mundelein resident.
Sitting just off busy Route 60 near a McDonald's, a Garden Fresh Market and a Chase Bank, the site would seem to be a prime location for a sit-down restaurant or bar.
"I have always liked that building," Gilardi said.
Several entrepreneurs felt the same way through the years. But none had much luck.
The only operation to have any longevity on the site was a Ponderosa Steakhouse, which operated there from 1978 to 1994.
After gathering dust for three years, the building became a sports bar called Slammers in 1997. It lasted until 1999. Joints called the Red Door Tavern and Henry's Grille followed.
The Fuel Bar & Grill came next and gained some notoriety during its time there. Originally billed as a family-friendly restaurant, it opened in March 2007 and was shut down 13 months later after an undercover police operation led to gambling and drug arrests.
Something called the Loft Char Bar arrived in October 2008. It never got a liquor license and closed in 2009, village records indicate.
Blue 60 opened in August 2011. It lasted a little more than a year, effectively shut down by the village after a high-profile brawl and complaints of underage and overserved patrons.
The various post-Ponderosa restaurants didn't fail because of a lack of customers or poor traffic in the area, Mundelein Trustee Terri Voss said.
"It's a great location," said Voss, who leads the board's community and economic development committee. "It was because they were poorly managed or didn't have adequate capital."
Gilardi thinks he and Tavern on 60 co-owner Dave Pedersen have the recipe for succeeding where the others failed.
An integral ingredient is his restaurant experience.
Gilardi has run Philly G's for eight years. It formerly had been known as Gilardi's, but he changed the name when he bought the place from his dad.
Now 42, Gilardi has worked at the restaurant since he was 19.
Once Tavern on 60 opens, he'll spend time at both restaurants. He'll also bring some veteran Philly G's employees to the new place to ensure it gets off to a strong start.
His mother and wife will join him, too.
"I'm not going in there alone," Gilardi said.
Pedersen has restaurant experience, too. He owns the 1st Place Sports Bar & Grill in Hoffman Estates.
Gilardi wants Tavern on 60 to reflect the Mundelein community. He and Pedersen are keeping Blue 60's sports bar theme, but they'll be adding memorabilia from Mundelein High School and Carmel Catholic High School, which also is in town.
The menu will have a bit of local flavor, too. It will include a dish dubbed the Carmel-ized burger that's topped with a French onion spread and loads of caramelized onions.
Not to be outdone, the Mustang melt -- honoring Mundelein High's mascot -- will feature three cheeses, avocado and bacon.
"We're trying to show how much we want to be a part of Mundelein," Gilardi said.
Voss is in Gilardi's corner. She's thrilled that an experienced restaurant owner -- and a local resident -- is taking a shot at the location.
"We're just super excited that they wanted to open this business here," Voss said.
The village board voted last week to grant Gilardi a liquor license for the new venture. A few hurdles remain, such as sign approval and a health inspection.
Mayor Steve Lentz, who doubles as the town's liquor commissioner, is pulling for Gilardi.
"We all have a lot of confidence that this could be the one that does really well and stays a long time," Lentz said.
Gilardi appreciates the support he's received from Voss and other village officials. He also knows a lot of people will be watching the business to make sure he doesn't repeat the mistakes of his predecessors.
"I know that building is going to be under the microscope for a little bit," he said. "(But) I'm fully confident in the job that I can do there."