Thursday, July 30, 2009

30 JUL 09: 222 Take Two

A car slowed to a stop in the Historic District Wednesday, but two people inside were left disappointed. "We're not open yet," a man on the sidewalk told them. But please don't get the wrong idea - not that many people are searching for new defense lawyers, to file civil suits.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: A cozy restaurant should reopen in the Historic District today, after being closed for several months. Café 222 on Seventh Street has a new owner who plans to make some changes, including evening dining on weekends. At least there will be available parking then - because the Columbus Career Center a block away will be closed.

"I just love this place," Auburn native Mike Vance told me during the lunch hour Wednesday. His new venture offers a great deal to like, as Café 222 dates from the 1890s - back when the Historic District's homes were modern enough to qualify for Architectural Digest magazine.

When your blog reviewed Café 222 four years ago [22 Nov 05], we noted some of the unusual furnishings. For instance, historic books lined the restaurant walls -- and come to think of it, this may explain why the Columbus Public Library's reference collection looked very different after moving east from Wynnton Road.

But business apparently went bad for Café 222 early this year. I was surprised when I walked by it several weeks ago - because not only was the restaurant closed during the noon hour, but an Easter menu was posted near the door. When that's on display in the middle of June, you've gone beyond "historic" to out-of-date.

Mike Vance hoped to reopen Café 222 before today, but he faced a couple of delays. One involved hiring a kitchen and wait staff. Then a Health Department inspector had to arrive, to approve the restaurant for operation. If the fried chicken and baked chicken get mixed up, that's potential trouble.

Mike Vance's vision for Café 222 is to become "a bit more upscale," while lowering the prices. That sounds like a contradiction - until you remember it could be the only way for parts of the housing market to make a comeback from the recession.

Another of Mike Vance's big ideas is to open Café 222 beyond breakfast and lunch. He told me he plans to open the restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights, with a live guitar player. Plenty of Columbus State University music students living nearby would be glad to play for tips.

In fact, Café 222 might draw a good crowd of Columbus State fine arts students - but they'll have to be persuaded to head south to Seventh Street, instead of north on Broadway. Maybe if the management made a cooperative agreement on its "wine list" with Little Joe's package store one block away....

But Mike Vance made clear to me that for now, he's only operating Café 222. He said he's been asked to take over the affiliated Rothschild-Pound Inn down the street, but he's not prepared to take that step yet. With the tourism industry still recovering from recession, owning an Inn still isn't quite.... well, in.

Downtown dining may be showing signs of life. I was surprised recently to find Minnie's Uptown Restaurant on Eighth Street now is open on Sundays. Yet Chester's Bar-B-Q decided to close on Saturdays -- so pork may be out, and fried chicken is in.

But not all is well in the Columbus restaurant business. WXTX "News at Ten" reported Wednesday night Destiny Dogs near Victory Drive will close for good this weekend, after two break-ins in the last two weeks. Hot dog stands should NOT require guard dogs to protect them.

BLOG UPDATE: The debate about a city Crime Prevention Director kept bubbling Wednesday. Crime Prevention Task Force Chair Frank Myers told WRBL the alternative would be the status quo - "crime prevention in name only." If Myers isn't careful, next week's "National Night Out Against Crime" could turn into a night out against him as well.

The "politicizing" of crime prevention may be happening, even before Columbus Council votes on a new director. Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman said Wednesday the Crime Prevention Office would deny his department needed people. Last July Countryman asked for 26 new deputies -- but he couldn't even get CB&T to provide free space for the Junior Marshal's office.

Speaking of which: Wednesday's revealed Phenix City will receive federal stimulus money to pay for four new police officers. LaGrange will receive four new officers as well. But the federal government apparently decided Columbus doesn't need any stimulus money for officers - especially if they'll be guarding the new NCR plant.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: We took a provocative question to the beer-loving opponents at our Wednesday night poker table. "If President Obama invited you to the White House for a beer, would you go?"

"I'd go," one young man answered. "I'd like to date Michelle Obama."

So much for hypothetical questions - now to more real news headlines from Wednesday:

+ The new school year opened in Chattahoochee County. Yes, school opened on 29 July - even before the four-day "back to school" sales tax holiday began. I guess the strategy is to make families buy supplies in Cusseta, by giving them as little time as possible to drive to Peachtree Mall.

+ Richard Hyatt's web site reported several Muscogee County School Board members have offered to take a pay cut, in conjunction with a teacher furlough. You'll have the ask the board why they didn't think of this, before approving the new administration building.

+ Dick McMichael's blog reported Mayor Jim Wetherington plans to vote for the school sales tax in September. But the mayor told the Columbus Rotary Club he will NOT campaign actively for it. He'll apparently leave that touchy education subject to the new Crime Prevention Director.

+ Aflac announced it will buy Continental American Insurance for $100 million. It's the first business takeover in Aflac history - and hopefully the company has enough reserves to avoid paying a large duck bill.

+ Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin issued an order for his staff to take three furlough days this fall. Is this really setting a good example? If farmers took three furlough days at harvest time, their crops might be ruined.

+ WTVM finished a series on the 1999 U.S. Little League baseball champions from Phenix City. Team member Alex Acuff is now a Columbus State University cheerleader - which still requires good fielding skills, when a young woman is tossed high into the air.

The number of unique visitors to our blog in the first half of 2009 was up 11.1 percent! To advertise to them, offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 561 (+ 11, 2.0%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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