A year after Night Owl Food and Spirits burned down, owner Greg Ardisson believes he’s where he’s meant to be.
Where is that exactly? It’s at the corner of Main Street and Union Road, where he and his family broke ground on the new Night Owl last week.
“If you bulldozed every single building in the city of Evansville and asked me where I want to build my restaurant, that would be the lot,” Ardisson said.
Traffic to the sports bar, Ardisson predicts, will increase significantly. The intersection includes four stop signs, so everyone passing through town on Highway 14 will—literally—have to stop by.
Rebuilding the sports bar from the ground up wasn’t always his vision, Ardisson said. Two sets of plans to restore the original location on the corner of Main and Maple streets were shut down because they were too expensive, he said.
He thought he was going to be out of business.
Feeling discouraged, Ardisson went to Roger Berg, real estate broker and one of Ardisson’s mentors, for advice. After touring a few potential locations, Berg asked Ardisson where he wanted to build.
Ardisson said he still wanted to build on his old lot.
“He looked at me and said, ‘It was gone,’” Ardisson said. “Which was hard to hear, but it was the truth.”
Berg, whose family sold Ardisson the original Night Owl location 30 years ago, owned the lot on Main Street and Union Road and had plans to build a three-unit commercial building on it. After Ardisson explained his situation, Berg said he had a change of heart, set his project aside and sold the lot to Ardisson.
“I canned that project to give it to Greg because I really felt like it’s where he should be,” Berg said. “It’s good for Evansville. This is what the town needs.”
Ardisson hopes to open the new Night Owl in June, he said. The new location will have its own parking lot, a feature not possible in the old space downtown, Ardisson said.
The bar will also feature a new volleyball court.
For the food, Ardisson hopes to “elevate it” a bit while still providing some of the community’s favorites.
“Fish fry, prime rib and the burgers will be returning soon,” he said.
An outpouring of community support makes Ardisson confident people will enjoy the new Night Owl.
“(Evansville is) where a neighbor will come and help a neighbor ... where a neighbor will bring food, bring a dish to pass, bring a helping hand, bring a pat on the shoulder,” Berg said. “We’re together. The Night Owl is kind of all of us.”
As plans to reopen move forward, Ardisson is most excited to provide security for his family, he said. His sons Trevor and Travis have worked with their father in the restaurant business for years and, when the Night Owl burned down, they lost their jobs.
The Ardisson family also owns Mama Rita’s Pizzeria and Bakery in Evansville. While they have enjoyed running the pizzeria, Ardisson admits it doesn’t provide enough income to feed three families.
The family is anxious to return back to the restaurant and bar business, Ardisson said.
The lot where the former Night Owl stood is still for sale, he said. An offer has been made, but Ardisson would not share more information.