JOLIET – The plan to open a Lockdown Bar & Grill in downtown Joliet has been called off.
The restaurant was to be a Joliet version of the popular Lockdown restaurant in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of Chicago. That restaurant features gourmet hamburgers and a heavy-metal theme. It was seen as a potential boost to the downtown business district.
The news comes as the city prepares for a brainstorming session Thursday to develop a master plan for downtown development.
One City Council member pointed to the recent closings of other restaurants, and the aborted Lockdown plan, as signs of trouble in the downtown business district.
Councilman Jim McFarland mentioned "constant turnover" at restaurant locations and vacancies elsewhere as a sign of the need for a new action plan downtown.
"This is our tourist hub where we try to attract everybody," McFarland said, pointing to the Rialto Square Theatre, Joliet Area Historical Museum and Silver Cross Field as being among downtown attractions. "When you go down the street and see vacancies and closed shops, it doesn't look good."
City Manager Jim Hock said the city got notice this week that P.J. Zonis was not moving forward with the proposal made last year to create a Joliet version of his Lockdown restaurant in Chicago.
Hock said Wednesday the city will look for other potential users of the building at Chicago and Cass streets, which once housed the Crabigale's comedy club. The City of Joliet owns the building.
"We never did sign the agreement of commitment to them, so we can list the property," Hock said. "We have had the [for sale] sign in the window, and over the past year there have been inquiries."
Hock said the city was waiting for Zonis to show agreements with contractors to renovate the building before it would turn over the property, which could have put it under the ownership of a bank.
"We would have lost control," Hock said.
Mayor Tom Giarrante said he is "cautiously optimistic" about the future of the site, given inquires from potential restaurant users. Giarrante said he had a meeting on Monday with a restaurant developer who expressed interest in the proposed Lockdown site, but that was before the city got the news that the plan was called off.
"He asked about the Lockdown," Giarrante said, "but we did not know at the time that it was going to die."
The City Council meets in a meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, where the public has been invited to join in the effort to develop a master plan for future downtown development.