The owner of Walton’s International Comfort Food in Haynie’s Corner is planning another restaurant in another traditionally under-served area of the city.
But he has run into some roadblocks along the way.
Read Street Barbecue to will be at Read and Virginia streets, near Deaconess Midtown, on the lot where Fred’s Bar and Grill used to be. Fred’s closed earlier this year, and its building was razed.
Tim Mills took his plans to the Site Review Committee earlier this week, but an opening depends on a parking variance and meeting other government requirements, including the purchase of a 1,500-gallon grease trap.
A “one size fits all” approach to grease trap sizing is costly for small-business owners, said Mills, who wants to have his newest restaurant open by spring.
“That is a frustration, not just for me but for a lot of restaurateurs,” Mills said. “Fortunately for us, we do a lot of our own construction and can do a lot of this stuff. But a lot of people can’t, and when they have to hire a plumber to put in a (grease trap that size) on the outside of their building, it can come to tens of thousands of dollars.”
Mills said he will use only paper plate and utensil products at Read Street Barbecue, creating less grease disposal. He anticipates the restaurant will have mostly take-out orders, but it will have some limited seating.
A smaller-capacity trap would be sufficient and far less expensive to clean, he said.
Evansville Water & Sewer Utility Director Allen Mounts said the city has been enforcing regulations on grease trap size requirements more diligently of late.
That’s because of the city’s federal mandate to fix its sewer system and eliminate combined overflows into Pigeon Creek and the Ohio River. Evansville is spending hundreds of millions on those repairs and passing the cost to ratepayers.
“The grease trap requirement has been in place for actually several years, it’s just that it wasn’t being enforced,” said Allen Mounts, director of the Evansville Water & Sewer Utility. “The consent decree mandates that municipalities, including Evansville, enforce the regulations in place, and those regulations are on a state and local level.”
The utility ratcheted up its enforcement about four years ago and has been inspecting hundreds of local food establishments, using newly hired staff, Mounts said. Those regulations don’t consider a business’ size.
“They are set by a uniform plumbing code and state regulatory requirement,” Mounts said.
Mills said the building itself at Read and Virginia “is ready to go.” He thinks it will be a good restaurant location.
“There’s nothing over there,” he said. “We bought the building as a storage facility, and then we noticed there’s nothing to eat over here, and there’s a whole lot of traffic on Virginia.”
He said the Building Commission shut down the project for about two months after determining a restaurant at the site wouldn’t meet the land’s use requirements.
Although Fred’s had been on the site previously, local officials said the part of the property Mills was building on had not been where Fred’s operated.
“It’s like saying your garage isn’t part of your house,” Mills said.
Site preparation continued when the issue was cleared up.
“The big thing is, we’re putting private money into a blighted area that nobody else is putting money into except non-for-profits,” Mills said. “It’s not a matter of asking to bend the rules. But I wish it could work a little bit better.”
To prevent your grease trap from getting clogged with food solids, consider installing The Drain Strainer so you won’t have grease trap pumping issues.