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UPDATED: Restaurant coming to old post office

An Italian restaurant will be moving into the former Hudson post office at the corner of Locust and Third streets. Photo by Randy Hanson1 / 2
An Altoona restaurateur was denied a liquor license for the Tex Mex bar and restaurant he wanted to open in the empty strip mall next to the Aldi store on Hanley Road.2 / 2

The Hudson City Council on Monday night selected an Osceola restaurateur over one from Altoona to receive the city's last available reserve Class B liquor and beer licenses.

The vote was 4-2 to award the license to Russell A. Evenson, who owns and operates the Village Pizzeria in Amery. He also started, and until three years ago owned, the restaurant of the same name in Dresser.

Having been granted the $10,000 liquor license, Evenson plans to purchase the old Hudson post office at 225 Locust St. and convert it into a 1930s-style Italian restaurant.

The decision to award the remaining liquor license to Evenson meant there was none available for Oscar Guzman Garcia. Garcia had applied for a license for a planned 5,400-square-foot Tex Mex restaurant and bar in the empty strip mall next to the Aldi store at Hanley and Carmichael roads.

A third applicant for the licenses, Quinn M. Johnson of Baldwin, was reported to have withdrawn his application earlier in the day. Johnson has proposed opening an establishment named The Phoenix Grill in an 8,200-square-foot space in the River City Center on Second Street in downtown Hudson.

Johnson and his wife now own and operate the Phoenix Bar & Grill in Baldwin.

Mayor Alan Burchill said both of applications before the council were good ones.

Evenson's son, Derek, served as the spokesman for the family before council, but was joined at the podium by his father.

Derek Evenson said the restaurant would create 50 jobs, or 20 to 25 full-time equivalent positions. The annual payroll would be $300,000, he said, and $1.5 million in annual sales is projected.

The Evensons were planning for late summer or early fall opening, but were forced to move up the date to the end of April 2012.

A city ordinance requires that liquor licenses be put to use within 90 days of being granted. The council also approved a 30-day extension for the period for the Evensons.

Alderperson Randy Morrissette wanted to know why the council couldn't wait to approve the licenses for the Evensons until they were closer to putting them to use.

Alderpersons Rich Vanselow and John Hoggatt replied that the licenses were critical to the Evensons' operation.

"They aren't going to start if they don't get the license," Vanselow said.

Russell Evenson said he had a verbal agreement with owner Don Maysack regarding the purchase of the building, but he couldn't sign a written agreement without knowing that he had the liquor and beer licenses.

Maysack was in attendance and verified that he and Evenson had come to an agreement on the purchase.

When asked about a projected opening date for the restaurant, Evenson said the plan is to build a 30- by 40-foot addition on the west side of the building to house the restaurant's kitchen.

He indicated that an August opening was possible, but he preferred not to open in the summer.

Evenson's wife, Janet, spoke from the audience saying that interior of the building would need extensive remodeling, and they wanted to do it right.

But when it appeared that the council's decision could rest on whether the Evensons would commit to opening the business by the end of April, Russell Evenson said they could. He first got the nod from his daughter Erica Schletty, a Hudson resident.

The Evensons' daughter Heidi Johnson also resides in Hudson.

Alderperson Rich Vanselow lamented that the city had just one liquor license available under its quota that allows one Class B license for every 600 residents, plus the remaining fraction.

"I would give them both licenses. I don't know why the government is involved," Vanselow said.

Alderspersons Morrisette and Mary Yacoub agreed with Vanselow.

The city's quota is tighter than the state's, which allows one license for every 500 residents in a municipality. But because of a complicated system for awarding reserve licenses, City Clerk Nancy Korson wasn't sure on Tuesday if the city could make more licenses available by adjusting its quota.

Morrissette moved to grant the liquor license to the Evensons. Alderpersons Lee Wyland, John Hoggatt and Rich Vanselow joined Morrissette in approving the motion.

Wyland said the proposals from the Evensons and Garcia, but he liked the idea of using the old post office for a restaurant the best.

Hoggatt said the restaurant would fill a vacant building and be good for the downtown, which he noted is in his district.

Yacoub replied that if that was the basis for his decision, she should support Garcia's proposal. His restaurant would also go into a vacant building, Yacoub noted.

The strip mall at the northwest corner of Hanley and Carmichael roads currently is in Yacoub's 2nd District. It will be in the new 4th District beginning with the April 3, 2012 election.

Yacoub and Council President Lori Bernard voted against granting the liquor and beer licenses to the Evensons.

Bernard said she saw the value of have a business the strip mall that has stood empty since it was built several years ago.

The other proposal

Garcia said he would spend $500,000 for the restaurant build-out in three bays of the Hanley Road strip mall. The interior would look like an old-fashioned Mexican restaurant, with a family area and a bar, he said.

He reported being in the restaurant business for 20 years and said he owns and operates restaurants in Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Wausau and Eau Claire.

The Hudson restaurant would have operated under the name Azul Tequila Bar & Grill, the same as Garcia's Eau Claire restaurant.

He said he has been trying to come to Hudson for two years, but no liquor license was available.

His Hudson restaurant would employ 25 to 35 people, Garcia said.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

(715) 426-1066