It's Your Business: Sports bar slated for South Neil spot

Dan Manolakes and Wayne Brucks plan to open a new sports bar and restaurant this summer in the former Buttitta's building on South Neil Street in Champaign.

They're still working out arrangements, but Manolakes said they hope to open Orange & Brew Saloon & Grille there in August.

Initially, they will use only the main floor of the building. But in a second phase — to be completed by New Year's Eve — they plan to offer live entertainment on the second floor and have an adjacent rooftop patio with a view of Memorial Stadium.

That area, known as the Level Two Entertainment Center, will have a stage on the west end. It will feature tribute bands and other entertainment on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays — and possibly other nights.

Manolakes said he plans to start hiring for Orange & Brew in mid-July and be open for business in mid-August, prior to the first home football game at the University of Illinois.

Plans call for the sports bar and restaurant to open at 11 a.m. daily, with food served until 10 p.m. When the entertainment center opens, it's expected to operate from 9:30 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Manolakes said he chose the building at 1201 S. Neil St., C, because it's centrally located, just blocks from downtown Champaign and the UI campus.

"It's a great old building," he said of the structure, which dates from 1938 and once housed the local Coca-Cola bottling company. Later, it was home to Jillian's, a sports bar chain featuring billiards and other games.

Orange & Brew will have 28 TVs and a game area, and the decor will be lightened up considerably from the Buttitta's motif, Manolakes said.

The wall between the bar and dining area will be shortened to a half-wall. Other remodeling includes redesigning the kitchen, adding booth seating along the windows in the dining area, redoing the floors and changing the lighting.

Orange & Brew will also have a private party room that can accommodate as many as 125.

Manolakes, a broker with Keller Williams Realty, is no stranger to the bar and restaurant scene in Champaign-Urbana.

He is a former partner in Billy Barooz in southwest Champaign, a former partner in Rock's and a former owner of the White Horse Inn, having sold that more than a decade ago.

He and Brucks, who lives in California, knew each other from their days at Champaign Central High. Brucks graduated in 1976, and Manolakes graduated the next year.

After going to Southern Illinois University, Brucks moved to Palm Springs, Calif., and had a career in advertising. For many years, he was account manager for Palm Springs Life, a regional magazine.

Manolakes said Orange & Brew will serve not only bar food but also signature "gastropub-type dishes." He has hired a consulting chef to work on the menu.

After Fiesta Ranchero ...

Is there another Jimmy John's in Champaign-Urbana's future?

Can't say for sure, but earlier this year Liautaud Development Group acquired property at the southwest corner of Neil Street and St. Mary's Road in Champaign.

That corner was most recently the site of the short-lived Fiesta Ranchero restaurant, 1805 S. Neil St., C.

The building has been demolished, and Nic Mueth, chief operating officer for Jimmy John's, said there are no specific plans for the property at this point.

He said the development group saw it as an opportunity to buy a good corner. He termed it "opportunity more than strategy."

Through the years, the Fiesta Ranchero building served as home to several long-running restaurants, including: El Toro 2 from 2004 to '11; Colorado Steakhouse from 1994 to 2000; and Snak's Fifth Avenue/Snak's Park Avenue from 1981 to '94. The building started life as a Red Wheel restaurant.

If the new location does become home to a Jimmy John's, it would be conveniently located near the UI Research Park. It would also be a short distance from the Jimmy John's headquarters on Fox Drive.

Ratio Architects building

Carlos Nieto said specific plans haven't been determined yet for the building at 10 Chester St., C, that now houses Ratio Architects.

Ratio recently announced it will move its Champaign studio to the ground floor of the M2 on Neil building at 301 N. Neil St., C, this summer.

The Chester Street building — which once housed Stipes Printing — was sold in April to CMT Central Illinois Properties.

"After Ratio leaves, we are open to lease it out as restaurant, bar, retail or office space," Nieto said. "It is possible that we may move our offices into the space, but we have not decided for sure."

CMT's offices are currently one block north, at 6 Taylor St., C.

Contact Don Dodson at 351-5227 or 800-252-3346; by email at dodson@news-gazette.com; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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