Bennigan's Begins Again

Michigan Ave location has lots to celebrate this St Pat’s Day

This coming St Patrick's Day, many Chicagoans will don their best green and celebrate the Irish. But at one Michigan Avenue restaurant, the staff might be just as giddy as the customers.

Bennigan's Grill & Tavern went bankrupt in late July 2008. The restaurant chain closed all company-owned locations, including the business located at 150 S Michigan Ave, the chain's best performer.

But Joshua Westling, who owned a franchise in Nebraska, assumed the lease in October and quietly reopened the restaurant with limited hours in December.

"You can't beat the location," he told the Chicago Tribune. "It's like an institution, with all the foot traffic, the Art Institute across the street. It's close to everything that's happening."

Westling's team of investors added 22 plasma televisions and replaced the linoleum floors with tile.

Perhaps most importantly though, they rehired many of the popular restaurant's staff, who had difficulty finding new jobs in the poor economy.

"I had been praying and praying. I have a family, home, two cars and was always worried how are we going to work this out and make it," service manager Walter Thomas told the Chicago Sun-Times. He had worked at the location for 16 years before being laid off last summer.

Westley is hoping to open other Bennigan's locations in the area, as well as some in Denver and Dallas. He plans to introduce a new menu that will eliminate some of the more upscale (i.e., more expensive) dishes.

The Michigan Avenue restaurant, having plenty to celebrate this March 17th, will feature a noon live broadcast by Fresh 105.9 FM, with a live band at 6 p.m., and food and drink specials all day.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, will NOT kiss you because you're Irish. He'll just kiss you.

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