Fire Food & Drink Owner Plans to Bring Back 1950s Charm to Lee Road Diner Cars
Douglas Katz will open a diner in one car, and use the other to expand his catering business.
Douglas Katz fell in love with the Lee Road diner cars back when Big Fun owner Steve Presser first brought them to Cleveland Heights.
So the Fire Food & Drink owner was upset when he heard over the summer that the deed to the property was transferred to Fifth Third Bank, and the future of the nostalgic cars was uncertain.
At the same time, the Cleveland Heights resident's catering business at Fire was continuing to expand, and it was clear that the kitchen was no longer suitable for the demands.
After working with the bank and the City of Cleveland Heights, Katz has decided to buy the property with the help of a $200,000 loan from Cleveland Heights, and the agreement is expected to close Nov. 14. One side of the diner car will be dedicated to his catering business and to events like birthday parties and rehearsal dinners, and the other will house a 1950s-style diner.
"I love the fact that I'm going to be across the street from the BottleHouse. I want to be in the neighborhood with the Cedar Lee movie theater, with these places that I think just have such passion," Katz said. "And that's the reason I'm moving to the neighborhood. I want to walk to work. I want to be with The Wine Spot. There are so many people there that are my friends, so to be able to open in the same district that they're in I think it makes it so much more fun and interesting, and we can do things together. "
For now the business is called the Katz Club, but that and other details of the establishment will likely change as they get closer to the targeted opening date of March 2013.
What Katz does know is that the food at the diner will be fresh, not frozen, he'll buy local beef and eggs, make sausage, doughnuts, bread, pickles and more in house and serve "awesome, simple" diner food at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The establishment will also sell alcohol.
The other side will be devoted to various private parties, and his catering business will move from the now inadequate kitchen at the 11-year-old Fire Food & Drink to what Katz says is a 3,300 square foot space. The total size of the structure is 5,714 squar feet, according to council documents.
The landscaping, parking lot, patio, interior and kitchen will get an approximately $200,000 face-lift — the kitchen will be modernized, while the interior of the cars will be updated to bring them back to the way they used to look when Presser brought them.
Katz and his father-in-law Gerald Goldberg, who is helping with the business end of the restaurant as it gets established, are well aware of the fact that businesses don't seem to last long in the space.
"There's nothing about the location or the cars that made those businesses fail ... it's not for us to say why they failed, but we do not feel it's the location or the cars," Goldberg said. "But I have the confidence that the quality will be there, that it will be a destination restaurant. Just like people go to Johnny's on Fulton."
Katz said everyone he's talked to is excited that a new business is moving there.
"To me, the nook and cranny places, the places that are off the beaten path are the ones that can really create a destination and a name for themselves," Katz said. "I think this is one of those places that has so much soul to it, and I think that it's the right time for this place.
"Everyone wants it to be a great place. Everyone knows the diner cars."