New program helps attract Asian restaurant to The Landing

May 8th, 2017

By Kevin Leininger | The News-Sentinel

When City Council created a "downtown dining district" in 2015, the hope was new bars and restaurants would be lured downtown by the ability to obtain liquor licenses for the bargain-basement price of $2,500 per year. Since then, however, just one restaurant — The Golden in the new Ash Brokerage building — has taken advantage of the offer.

But that is about to change.

City Council on Tuesday will consider a license application from NAWA LLC, which intends to open an "Asian fusion" restaurant on at 126 W. Columbia St. — part of the historic "Landing" slated to be redeveloped at a cost of about $32 million under the direction of the Cincinnati-based model group. According to the application by Manager Dijsila Chaisuthi, work could begin as soon as this month with an opening in August.  Bravas Burgers of Fort Wayne has previously said it intends to open on the Landing, and Columbia Street West has been a fixture there for years.

"The goal . . . is to preserve the beauty and integrity of the building's historic brick facade, tin ceilings and other unique architectural features while investing over $350,00 in desirable and necessary practical upgrades," the application states. "Interior design is intended to create a chic and cosmopolitan Asian dining experience." Mechanical and safety systems will also be upgraded.

The restaurant will feature both small- and large-plate offerings reflecting influences from Thailand, Japan, China, Korea and elsewhere in Asia and will offer lunch and dinner as well as takeout and downtown delivery. The restaurant will use local products whenever possible, the application adds.

Authorized by state law, the city's ordinance makes state-issued licenses available in exchange for the annual $2,500 fee, which would be collected and used by the Downtown Improvement District to promote downtown activities and marketing. The dining district is generally within 1,500 feet of the rivers, and participating businesses must maintain an annual ratio of non-liquor sales to total sales of at least 50 percent and be open during normal evening business hours at least 300 days per year.

The city will monitor the participating businesses to make sure they comply, and the licenses can be revoked if they do not. Traditional liquor licenses have sold for $100,000 or more.