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Published: Thursday, 6/9/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Noted during Obama visit, Chet's restaurant to close

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Days after being mentioned by President Obama when he visited Toledo, New Chet's Restaurant on East Manhattan Boulevard will close Sunday. The owner said he blames the economy and the smoking ban. Days after being mentioned by President Obama when he visited Toledo, New Chet's Restaurant on East Manhattan Boulevard will close Sunday. The owner said he blames the economy and the smoking ban.
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A small north Toledo eatery whose origins date back to 1923 will close Sunday, just days after being feted in a speech to Chrysler workers by President Obama.

New Chet's Restaurant, in the 1000 block of East Manhattan Blvd., is closing for good, bringing to an end a nearly 90-year run at the corner of Manhattan and Cecelia Avenue, co-owner Richard Lawrence said Wednesday.

The Blade's online story about Chet's Thursday was picked up by the national news wire service Associated Press. And the press secretary for the Republican National Committee Thursday made note of the closing, citing the closing as a result of the economy under Mr. Obama.

Chet's owner Mr. Lawrence, 82, was shot twice during a robbery outside his restaurant on May 19, 2008, while attempting to help what he thought was a man with a disabled automobile.

Although Mr. Lawrence lived, his injuries left him unable to do work he'd done since buying the small restaurant in 1973 when it was the burned-out remnants of the former Chet's Hot Dog.

Chet's Hot Dog had opened in 1939, taking the place of another restaurant on the same site that had opened in 1923.

"Since I've been shot, I haven't been able to cook," Mr. Lawrence said Wednesday. "It was the economy and the smoking ban that hurt us more than anything."

Mr. Lawrence said a lack of business made the economics of paying someone to cook for his restaurant no longer sustainable. He placed the business up for sale and last week turned it over to a local real estate company. The contraction of the automotive industry didn't help either, he added.

"When we were open later, we delivered a lot of food to Jeep. Today, it's probably only $100 a week. We used to deliver $200 or $300 of food there in a week, but that's all stopped," Mr. Lawrence said.

But the small restaurant did have a booming business on Friday when President Obama was in town.

Mr. Lawrence said he had 100 people packed into the restaurant then, hoping the President would stop by.

"It was busier than heck," he said. "Some people waited there for three hours. My parking lot was jammed."

Instead, President Obama ate lunch at Rudy's Hot Dog on West Sylvania Avenue, and dropped by Fred's Pro Hardware around the corner on Stickney Avenue, but mentioned Chet's during his remarks as he discussed other jobs and businesses that benefitted from the 2009 bailout of Chrysler because Toledo Chrysler workers still had jobs.

"And this plant indirectly supports hundreds of other jobs right here in Toledo," President Obama said to hundreds of workers in Chrysler's Wrangler plant. "After all, without you, who'd eat at Chet's or Inky's or Rudy's?"

A spokesman for the White House Press Office associated with last week's presidential visit had no comment regarding the restaurant's impending closing.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: lvellequette@theblade.com or 419-724-6091.



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