Eventually, the new Blue Rose Café will open at a site on the east bank of the Arkansas River that has been designated as a restaurant and club venue. But first will come Elwood's.
Tom Dittus of Swamphouse Partners LLC, the group that was selected by the River Parks Authority's board of directors in March to develop the 3.8-acre site, said last week his group still plans on having the Blue Rose--a newly constructed, full-service restaurant and club--open at the park at 1924 Riverside Drive by early spring. But to tide over park users in the meantime, Swamphouse is planning to open a satellite cabana location called Elwood's in the old River's Edge Bistro site by mid to late November.
The River's Edge was a small, self-service restaurant that operated out of the building from 1996 through 2008.
"It'll look a lot better than it does now," Dittus said of his company's plans for the old River's Edge site, which has been undergoing an internal demolition for the past couple of weeks with an eye toward removing some of its exterior walls. "It'll have a bar area where people can sit and have drinks and watch football games. And we're trying to weatherproof it to the degree that we can."
Dittus said Elwood's will feature roll-down tarps to shield patrons from the elements, along with an infrared heating system. But when weather permits, the structure will be opened and outdoor seating will be set up, with live music possibly being part of the equation, as well, he said.
Elwood's--the name comes from the penguin in the company logo, the product of a naming contest when the old Blue Rose Café operated in the Brookside district in the 1990s--will feature cold beer and other drinks, along with a light menu that includes soups, chili, bagels, deli sandwiches, chips and salsa, brats, Italian sausages, hot dogs, salads and veggie items.
Dittus said he and his partners were scheduled to have met with the contractor earlier this week to iron out some details for work on the site.
"They're real confident they can get it done in two weeks," he said.
Dittus said some sort of perimeter will be set up to mark the operation's boundaries, but he described Elwood's as "a great opportunity for us to have a presence in the park." He said he and his partners might also consider adding snow cone and ice cream vending carts to the list of offerings.
"These park users are hard core," he said. "We just want to be there for them as much as we can."
The satellite location is intended to remain open not only when the Blue Rose commences operations several months from now, but all through the winter, Dittus said, "on days when I don't have to sit there in a parka."
Opening a satellite location at the River's Edge site is a new wrinkle to the scheme proposed in March, Dittus said.
"The original plan was to get rid of it," he said of the building. "But I got to thinking about it, and I think it's going to be an excellent revenue generator."
Just a few yards from Elwood's, Swamphouse Partners also is working on the Blue Rose, a much larger venture that will be built on piers on the bank of the river. Dittus' group is still in the process of securing a 404 Permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project, but he said he expects to have that in hand soon, and once a contractor has been hired, "We'll have the groundbreaking around the same time as Elwood's opens, which will put us open in early spring of 2010."
The Blue Rose will be a 3,000-square-foot, $500,000 operation with seating for approximately 100 people inside and another 80 to 90 outside on the deck. Dittus has said live music will be featured at least three nights a week, with an emphasis on jazz, blues and red dirt styles.
The project is receiving $250,000 in public funds that were earmarked for it years ago through the third-penny sales tax. Dittus has said that money will be used for demolition, a parking lot expansion and utility line work.
Share this article: