Local restaurant owners excited for expanded Riverfront District

NOW: Local restaurant owners excited for expanded Riverfront District

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- For the last five years, Michael Lacarrubba would look across the street from inside his restaurant and see the potential that was so close, yet so far.

“I was like, ‘I’m literally right there!’ Maybe I can just put a chair out there or something,” jokes Michael Lacarrubba, owner of L Street Kitchen.

That potential is now within Lacarrubba's grasp, with the South Bend Common Council passing a resolution Monday night to expand the city’s riverfront district another 1,500 feet, encompassing L Street Kitchen.

“I’m looking forward to opening at night and offering a full line of spirits and wine,” says Lacarrubba.

With the heavily discounted 3-way liquor license, not only can Lacarrubba and his customers look forward to extended hours, alcoholic beverages, and a new dinner menu, but for himself and other local small business owners, it’s a chance to be more competitive.

“This is really an incentive for small business owners and independently owned restaurants to be able to open and really compete in a market where larger chains who may be better funded, larger advertising budgets, this kind of levels the playing field in a sense,” explains Executive Director of DTSB, Willow Wetherall.

“I don’t have two hundred seats, I don’t have a million-dollar backer who’s going to say, ‘Well, we can just sit this one out’, we’re literally working from funds that come out of my retirement, social security,” Lacarrubba admits.

L Street Kitchen is just one of several small restaurants in South Bend that has already jumped at the bit and shown interest in applying for the license.

In less than 48 hours of the council's vote, at least 10 locally owned businesses have reached out to DTSB.

“It really allows the downtown and our neighborhoods to be true food destinations for independently owned businesses, and those are the kinds of businesses that really give our city it’s character,” Wetherall says.

The opportunities that can come from the expansion of the riverfront district are already getting some ideas flowing.

“We’re already thinking about another property to do like a food truck corral, so the food trucks can kind of go around a big tent and have a bar accessible,” Lacarrubba envisions. “That would be kind of fun.”

The resolution still has to go through the city’s redevelopment commission before businesses can actually apply for the liquor license, which will happen on September 28th.

In the meantime, DTSB encourages anyone that may be interested to visit its website for more information and check eligibility.

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