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Published: Saturday, 3/12/2005

Packo's delays downtown cafe to '06

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN AND CHRISTOPHER D. KIRKPATRICK
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Packo's says its cafe near Fifth Third Field will open next year. Packo's says its cafe near Fifth Third Field will open next year.
RUGGIERO Enlarge

Tony Packo's fans will have to wait another year for a new location to open next to Fifth Third Field, and the restaurant executive in charge is blaming city delays and his own inexperience with downtown projects.

Robin Horvath, the chief operating officer of Tony Packo's Cafe, which has been a Toledo mainstay for more than 70 years, had hoped to be operating a new restaurant by the Mud Hens' home opener of April 15.

He said he decided to delay the renovation of the historic warehouse at 7 South Superior St. until he received about $100,000 in tax credits and grants available for downtown and historic renovation projects.

Starting work before final approval could nullify the credits, he said.

Mr. Horvath said there were constant delays in getting information and approvals from the city, partly because his point person with the city changed five times over the past year.

"The one I have now is a very competent individual, but he's a freshman to the system and doesn't have the contacts, so his ability to help is somewhat diminished," Mr. Horvath said. "I didn't know how crippling this process would be. We're at a loss for words as far as how we feel about this."

After realizing he would miss a March or April opening, Mr. Horvath considered opening by July.

To do that, he would have needed to start construction three weeks ago. But liquor license delays because of needed Toledo City Council approval for a new entertainment district made that impossible, he said.

Tony Packo's Cafe was the force behind establishing the 80-acre district that provides 15 new liquor licenses.

Also threatening a July opening was planned road and sidewalk work in front of his location, he said. It all added up to waiting, Mr. Horvath said. He would not comment yesterday on other planned projects, including possibly opening a Talmadge Road location and a site in Findlay.

Bill Carroll, Toledo's economic development director, said he had hoped the new location would be operating by the Mud Hen's April 15 home opener. He took issue with the idea that his office dragged its feet.

He said he met with Mr. Horvath a month ago and that as far as he knew, all the paperwork had been processed to clear the way for the 7,100-square-foot restaurant to open.

"It's his decision; he could do it today," Mr. Carroll said. "We've bent over backwards and we busted our fanny so he could open on opening day."

Mr. Horvath said he knows he could start construction now and be open sometime this year, but he decided to delay for a year because it didn't make sense to open a baseball-themed restaurant after the baseball season.

"We're choosing to look at the bright side and we'll be ready to rock and roll come March of next year," he said.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at

mmclaughlin@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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