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Photo by Fred Pollard
Bluff City Grill Restaurant and Bar will soon call the former location of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 254 at 424 E. Broadway home. Owners closed the deal this week and plan to move the restaurant by the end of September.
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Photo by Fred Pollard
The second story of the building at 424 E. Broadway can seat 350 people and will allow Bluff City Grill to accommodate catering and banquet services for events and receptions.
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Photo by Fred Pollard
Renovation plans include the addition of windows on the west side of the building to increase natural light and an open, airy feel.
ALTON — This fall, the awakening of Broadway will continue with a big move.
On May 16, Cathy Gross, the owner of Bluff City Grill Restaurant and Bar, closed a deal on the former location of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 254 at 424 E. Broadway.
By Halloween, it will be the new home of Bluff City Grill.
“I really like the space,” Gross said as she wandered through the massive building. “It needs a lot of work, but it has a lot of potential and I love the parking.”
At more than 24,000 square feet, the iconic two-story structure is easily twice the size of the restaurant’s current home at 102 W. Ninth St. The lower level offers space for a bar, restaurant and lounge area as well as an office area, while the upstairs can accommodate a variety of events and functions. A dual-story parking garage more than doubles the parking space available for the restaurant.
“There are even two elevators here,” Gross said, laughing. “I never thought I would own someplace with elevators.”
Plans call for the new location to be open around the end of September. Bluff City will remain open on West Ninth during the renovations at the new building, and Gross hopes to only be closed for a few days while the transition occurs.
“I love being close to the marina and the amphitheater,” she said. “I think Alton is really trying to build up this area, and I think our business is going to play a big part in that.
“I am especially excited to be able to expand into catering, banquets, receptions and special events with our upstairs area. We do catering currently, but it has to be off-site. Now we will be able to provide it all right here.”
Gross’ current crew is making the move as well, including managers Sarah Barrett, Teri Henkhaus and Drew McHugh, head chef Philip Strasser, bartenders Jenny Gross, Angela Hausman, Lauren Strickland and Jim Alward, and cooks Craig Mackelden, Mark Retzer, Kris Tucker and Brad Copenhaver.
Bluff City has approximately 30 employees in all, and Gross says she now has the opportunity to add more jobs.
“I will definitely have to expand (my staff),” she said. “We will need to hire to accommodate catering and parties.”
Bluff City has a classic restaurant setting along with a separate lounge area and a 21-and-up sports bar. Gross said the new location will have the same setup.
“We are going to completely gut the downstairs,” she said. “The wood paneling is coming down, we will be painting and replacing tiles and the three bars here will be remodeled to match the style of those in the current location.”
Bluff City Grill opened in December 2013, Gross’ first venture into restaurant ownership.
“My expectations of exceptional service and great food are what will make this work,” she said at the time. “Our menu is unique and sets us apart, and our prices are reasonable.”
Over the next two years, the restaurant carved a niche for itself in the Riverbend, developing a following with menu items such as the guac bites and the popular Three Little Pigs sandwich.
But from the beginning, Gross was looking ahead and planning her next move. She had been working on the deal for the Eagles building since January of this year.
“I have been looking for just the right place for a couple of years,” she said. “We turn down larger parties because we just cannot accommodate, and now we will be able to (do so).”
The second story of the new location offers a large and spacious open dining area, along with a kitchen. While Gross does not plan to keep much of the furniture and equipment left behind, the tables and chairs upstairs will fit nicely into her plans for a banquet and reception hall.
“We can seat about 350 people up here,” she said during the tour.
The Eagles organization was founded in the area in 1898 and incorporated in 1902. The organization’s tenancy in the building dates back to 1931.
A renovation and expansion took place around 1993.
Once open, future plans include an outdoor patio (“But one step at a time,” said Gross). In the meantime, guests can get a bit of a teaser this summer, as a July 3 party on the second story of the parking garage will begin at 2 p.m., featuring barbecue menu items along with live music from the Harman Family Bluegrass Band and a front row seat for Alton’s fireworks display that evening.
For now, it will be business as usual at the restaurant’s current location, and Gross said she is looking forward to serving her customers there until Bluff City is settled into its new home. Hours are 11 a.m. daily, staying open until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call (618) 433-8288 or visit www.bluffcitygrillalton.com.