By BETH ALTENA
The entire town has watched and lived the drama of losing an iconic mainstay of downtown since the August 2017 destruction of The Corner Bar. Now downtown visitors and merchants will begin to see the resurrection of the restaurant as construction is undertaken. According to the owner of the building, but not the business of The Corner Bar, Andy Tidey, it may be possible that hungry Start of Summer visitors will be able to once again enjoy eating there.
“It might be a bit optimistic, but Jeff was saying he hoped to work with a goal of having the main floor ready by Start of Summer,” said Tidey.
The restaurant will have more space than before the fire for dining, and many more options available as well. There will also be an elevator in the new plans for the building, something that was impossible in the original 1800’s building.
Recent work on the property has been an everyday observation for anyone who drives past the intersection of Main Street and Courtland. The City of Rockford has managed to keep road closure to a minimum and traffic is much improved over the situation immediately following the huge, day long fire that ended up gutting the restaurant and office spaces.
Tidey said the rebuild will not include spaces that had been rented out as individual offices, but instead will be incorporated into restaurant seating. The footprint of the building is also larger. Dumpster space on the west of the structure is being incorporated into both main floor seating and upstairs, open air dining space. Altogether the new building will total about 10,000 square feet.
Clearly not all of that space will be dining. The basement 1,0000 square feet is kitchen and other amenities, the elevator, restrooms and stairways will also take up space, but the options for meetings, conferences and even possible concerts or music venues will be increased in the new building.
“It will be fantastic for people to be able to use the upstairs for so much more,” said Tidey. By law per the Americans with Disabilities Act, upstairs use was limited in the former Corner Bar. Tidey said Jeff had just remodeled the northern half of the second floor prior to the fire, so there was already seating upstairs, but this will open up new possibilities.
Anyone who saw the excavation of the site a month ago might have been surprised at how deep the excavation went, far lower that the foundation of the portion of the building still standing. Tidey said this was to meet code for how high the walls were and for the elevator shaft. He said excavation failed to unearth any exciting surprises.
The foundation was poured Wednesday, January 31, in barely double digit degrees. Next sand will be brought in to fill in the spaces around the new foundation prior to the next steps to bring back this iconic and historic eatery.
Tidey spoke to the Squire last fall by phone from Colorado the day of the fire and was clearly still reeling from the shock of the extensive damage. At that point he advised people who own buildings to carefully read their insurance policy. Today he feels better about that. “It did turn out alright with the insurance,” he said.
He purchased the building in 2000.