Today's Special: Mattoon Burger King gets new owners

Today's Special: Mattoon Burger King gets new owners

MATTOON — After six decades in business, the Mattoon Burger King is under new ownership.

The locally owned restaurant — not affiliated with the Burger King chain — was recently sold to a group of partners including Mattoon real estate broker Cory Sanders.

Sanders vows to keep most of the food items made popular by longtime owners Gene and Betty Hoots.

"We'll keep the menu the same, hopefully lower prices and add new things to the menu," Sanders said.

There are no Whoppers on this Burger King's menu. This restaurant, at 1508 Charleston Ave., is best known for the Hooter, a quarter-pound cheeseburger.

"Their ice cream is known countywide," Sanders added, hastening to reassure customers that the restaurant will continue serving lemon ice cream, "a big hit."

Gene Hoots opened an ice cream store called Frigid Queen in 1952, and later opened a walk-up hamburger shop called Burger King nearby. The businesses were then consolidated under the Burger King name.

A filing with the Illinois secretary of state's office gave the Hootses sole rights to use the Burger King name in Illinois. When a Burger King opened in Skokie, the Hootses sued and were in turn countersued.

Gene Hoots said the Illinois Supreme Court eventually ruled that the chain's national rights to the Burger King name outweighed the Hootses' state rights to the name. But the chain didn't have sole rights, so the chain was barred from opening a store within 20 miles of the Mattoon store.

Sanders said that prohibition won't change with the sale.

"We own the same thing Gene owned all those years," he said, adding that rights to the name go with the property.

Hoots, who opened the Frigid Queen when he was 25 years old, recalled that ice cream cones cost a nickel at the time. Now, he said, the tax on a cone is 6 cents.

Likewise, when he opened the Burger King, hamburgers were just 19 cents apiece, or six for a dollar.

Hoots said he and his wife appreciate all the customers and employees of the business over the years. But it was time to sell.

"None of my family wants to continue with it. ... We're tired," he said.

Don't expect Gene and Betty to sit back and do nothing. Betty is an avid painter of landscapes, working mostly in oils, and Gene writes books, plays piano by ear and composes songs, including "Reunion Time," "Remember When" and "I've Got a Dog Named Spot."

Sanders, who remembers going to the Mattoon Burger King after playing youth baseball in the summer, said he plans to begin remodeling the restaurant in two months, giving "a whole new look" to the dining room.

The restaurant will continue to be open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week during the winter and until 10 p.m. when the weather gets warm.

But Sanders does plan to make one change.

"Right now, there are no free refills on soft drinks, and we will change that," he said. "We want to make it more accommodating to customers."

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (1):Restaurants

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Homeboy wrote on February 08, 2015 at 4:02 pm

Ate there this weekend and very bad service. Would never eat there again.