By Sarah Lang The Lebanon Reporter
---- — Lebanon — The Lebanon Pizza King is now under new ownership and may even be in a new location in the coming weeks, if all goes as Jim Morog has planned.
Jim Morog owns Stats Bar and Grill with business partner John Stathers. The two have been exploring options to move into a larger space to have a dining area, pool tables, and a place for bands to perform. When the Warehouse Sports Bar & Grille went out of business last fall, Morog contacted the building’s owner, expressing interest in leasing the building for Stats.
But then the two would have an empty location where Stats currently is, 100 South Smith Street. Morog and Stathers had three or four ideas they were working on for a new business or restaurant at that location when they were contacted by the owner of Lebanon’s Pizza King franchise. She wanted to sell. And they wanted to buy.“If it was a perfect world, we would be moving Stats into the Warehouse,” Morog said. “And Pizza King seems like a good fit to move into the train station. But it’s premature to say it’s going to happen for sure because there are a lot of little details that need to be worked out.”Morog and Stathers did purchase Pizza King in November. They are currently in negotiations with the owner of the Warehouse building. The owner of the former restaurant had control of the liquor license, so if Stats is to move into the building, they would have to get a new liquor license. The building’s owner has applied for it, and Morog is awaiting word on that.“Until he gets that, we can’t really commit to moving the bar there,” Morog said. “There would be no point in moving it if there were no liquor license.”And now, due to the weight of the recent snow, the building’s canopy has collapsed, which would also need repairing before a move.
Even if Stats moves to the Warehouse, the lease on Stats’ current building continues, so they have to find another business for the space, Morog said. Stathers has been interested in Pizza King for 10 years. He contacted the owners then, Anne and Bill Hacke of Lafayette, but they did not want to sell. He again got in touch two years ago, but Anne again was not interested in selling. So when she reached out to Stathers this time, the answer was yes. Anne had kept a log of all the people who had expressed interest in buying Pizza King, Stathers said, but she called Stathers first because he’d been inquiring the longest.
But moving Pizza King to the Stats building is not a no-brainer, Morog said. The rent is higher, and the way the whole restaurant operates would change. It would go from a carry-out-only restaurant to dine-in and carry-out.“We think it’s a good idea, but there is a certain amount of risk involved,” Morog said. “Hopefully it will work out.”If things go well from here, Morog said he hopes to move Stats into the Warehouse building in February.
And from there, Pizza King will move into Stats in March.
The current location of Pizza King will be up for rent by the building’s owner.“It’s all really kind of up in the air — all these balls are bouncing around and we don’t know where they’re going to land yet,” Morog said. “We’re 90 percent sure all those ducks are going to fall into a row and we’re going to do this. But until that happens, we’re not quite sure. It could all fall apart.”If plans are successful and Pizza King moves into Stats, Stathers said they will work to target high school students. He plans to put up school memorabilia for Lebanon, Western Boone and Zionsville, and install televisions so students can come, hang out and watch sports.“We want to give the kids something to do in this town,” he said.
But there is one other thing that will happen for sure, Morog said, and it is also a big risk — Stats will be going completely smoke-free. It will be the first non-smoking bar in Lebanon, he added.“It will be different, and I’m sure we’re going to lose some customers over that,” he said. “It’s a huge risk. But it’s the wave of the future.”Morog is hoping to have news on the certainty of the moves by the end of the month.