News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 30, 2014

Government paperwork delays restaurant opening

Old Bank Grill in 12 Points neighborhood won’t open until at least March, spokesperson says

TERRE HAUTE — If you use your imagination, you can smell something good cooking at the Old Bank Grill – but you will have to wait a little longer for the real thing.

In early December, the Tribune-Star interviewed restaurant owner and professional chef Jimmy Saliju, who then hoped to open the doors of his northside restaurant “soon.”

The buzz around the new business was strong, with a large number of people curious about making reservations or trying the new restaurant out for size. Saliju had even hired a staff and was busy training it to run the restaurant.

However, the opening is now set for no-sooner-than March. The hold up has to do with obtaining the necessary state and local permits required when converting an existing building to a completely new use.

“Jimmy does not have all the governmental permits he needs in order to open,” said his attorney, Bill Olah, reached by telephone Thursday. “He is diligently pursuing those, but there is no way to predict accurately when he will have all of them in hand, but it’s doubtful he will have them before March.”

None of this means Saliju has lost any of his enthusiasm or eagerness to serve customers in the Wabash Valley, Olah said.

“He hasn’t lost any fervor to get open. He’s going to be open. It’s out of his hands regarding the turn around on the other end.”

Saliju referred the Tribune-Star to Olah when asked about the status of the Old Bank Grill earlier this week.

Saliju’s restaurant is filling space originally designed as a bank in the city’s 12 Points neighborhood. When such a significant “change of use” takes place, state law requires the same permitting process required for new construction, said Chuck Ennis, city engineer, who was contacted Thursday concerning the status of the Old Bank Grill.

At this point, the state is still reviewing the restaurant’s construction designs, a process that normally takes 55 calendar days, according to the website of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the agency that does design reviews.

Only after the state issues a “Construction Design Release” can city officials conduct a final inspection and issue a certificate of occupancy – a document needed before a business can open, Ennis said. The State Fire Marshal is usually present during the final inspection, he noted.

Under current state law, nonresidential buildings capable of holding more than 100 people in a single room are required to have a sprinkler system, Ennis said. Density of occupancy also dictates other requirements, such as the number and size of exits, he said.

“We want to see [Saliju] open,” Ennis said. But, especially concerning places of “public assembly,” such as restaurants, theaters and night clubs, there is no rushing the state permit process, he said. “We have to follow the rules.”

The Old Bank Grill will seat about 200 diners, Saliju told the Tribune-Star in December.

The soon-to-be restaurant is located at the intersection of Lafayette and Maple avenues in 12 Points on the city’s north side. After operating as a bank for many decades, the building later housed a hair salon. Saliju has been working for months to convert the historic, two-story brick building into a restaurant in which to showcase his skills as a French-trained chef.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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